GIST Planning

Product Planning

What is GIST Planning?

GIST Planning is a relatively easy approach to planning that can be used in place of a roadmap. Recently introduced by Itamar Gilad, former Product Manager at Google, Gilad created this methodology while working at Google and has continued to evolve it over time with Lean and Agile methodologies. GIST is a lightweight approach to Product Planning that reduces overhead management and improves team autonomy. 

GIST Planning in detail 

Often, companies are looking for solutions as opposed to Goals. With GIST Planning, achieving goals is the desired outcome which helps to define the strategy – and everything that flows after is traceable back to those goals. GIST is an acronym that stands for Goals, Step Projects, and Tasks starting with Goals being the first step and tasks being the final step.

Goals – What is the aligned outcome with business partners, that Product is trying to achieve with this product?  This could be interchangeable with your Objectives if practicing OKRs. 

Ideas – Ideas are brainstormed in an “anything goes” approach from the team, and are stored in an “ideas bank”. There are no limits to the number of ideas that can be presented, and ideas can be added at any time.

Step Projects – Step Projects take ideas that have been prioritized and break them into small achievable steps with each step experimenting and testing the idea. With step projects, you’re making incremental progress toward achieving those goals. 

Tasks – This is the final stage takes those Step projects and breaks it down to those bite-sized activities that the team will prioritize. Now that the steps have been broken down into tasks, they are now agile and ready for change.

The Planning Cycle 

The GIST planning cycle is iterative and has multiple tiers.

  • Goals account for long term thinking with the average goal target being set for one – four years. 
  • Ideas are collected constantly throughout the whole process. 
  • Step Projects are worked on quarterly. At the beginning of each quarter, the team prioritizes which step projects they will work on.
  • Tasks are broken down into 1 – 2 week iterations.

GIST VS. Roadmaps

Roadmaps attempt to provide a much longer-term view of what the team will work on over the next 6-12 months, and how the team is working toward a longer-term vision.  GIST is most Agile in nature and tries to provide a more fluid approach to prioritization, assuming new ideas and step-projects emerge along the way. These planning techniques are not necessarily mutually exclusive though GIST often is used in exclusion of a roadmap.  

Benefits and Drawbacks of GIST Planning

GIST Planning is an amalgamation of other planning strategies that attempts to find the best pairing from various other methodologies.

  • Goals instead of Solutions – Strategy and solution statements can often be vague. Goals are clear, measurable and action-oriented.
  • Continual acceptance of ideas – ideas are unpredictable and can come at any time. GIST allows for ideas to be considered at any stage as opposed to working with time-constrained product backlogs.
  • Step Projects – Step Projects are brief (like Epics) instead of long and drawn out. You don’t have to bet on big ideas that may not have merit in the long run.

Relying on GIST Planning completely can have its drawbacks.

  • Roadmaps – The argument presented for GIST is that roadmaps are long-range waterfall approaches that don’t allow for any agility or iterations. This view doesn’t take into account the variety of roadmaps that are available that do take flexibility into account.
  • Long- Term Product Development – Working with GIST Planning keeps things nimble and moving. However, it does not work well for the development of larger products that do need full-scale roadmaps.
  • Resource Planning – Another drawback of GIST Planning is that it’s so agile and fluid that it doesn’t provide many concrete options for long term resource planning.


GIST Planning is useful for building new products in an agile and iterative way starting with the “what”, then moving to the “how”. The process helps prevent the need for heavy sales pitches for resources due to the nature of quick iterations, only moving forward ideas that prove positive. However, GIST Planning does not override the need for a proper product roadmap for larger-scale Products.

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