The Importance of Prioritization

When you’re slammed with work, there’s nothing worse than not knowing where to start. Whether tackling a complex project or a simple task, prioritization is pivotal, and it takes practice.

If you’ve ever wished the day were longer or struggled to complete commitments, you’re not alone. Beyond individuals, almost every company faces the same prioritization predicaments. Even top CEOs often lack the time and resources needed to actualize their ideas.

Given your company has limited runway and time to compete, how should you decide what to do, and when? Unhelpful as it may sound, your chosen prioritization strategy will depend on circumstance. However, some timeless prioritization principles will help you or your business in any endeavor. Read on to learn the five questions you must ask to solve any prioritization quandary!

1. Will users value the initiative?

Beyond sticking to goals, nothing is as important as ensuring customers value the business initiatives you pursue. Never prioritize a feature that doesn’t enhance user experience!

While some initiatives will prove more or less beneficial to users, questioning user value is a great starting point when prioritizing. Importantly, if enough users are clamoring for a feature, it’s a good idea to explore it! You may run the business, but customer feedback will surely illuminate loopholes. But don’t forget to look out for false positives!.

2. Does the initiative advance your business goals?

If any business guideline reigns universal it’s this: Start by setting goals, and never forget them! While a new idea be extremely exciting, expansion in the wrong direction can easily distance you from your goals and desired outcomes. The best goals are the specific things you’ve agreed will grow your company, improve retention, or decrease costs.

If you’re unsure how to proceed with a new business initiative, before anything else, ask yourself if the initiative advances your high-level business goals. If not, it may not be worth your time.

When your priorities are on point, the decisions you make are tightly tied to overarching business goals.

3. Does the idea benefit your brand?

By asking if the idea aligns with your brand, you’ll push yourself into “marketing mode.” As you know, marketing can make or break the success of a product. Strong brand presence equates to strong sales — so before prioritizing a new initiative, consider whether it falls within your customer’s brand understanding.

Follow this basic rule of thumb: ideas that build your present brand increase customer stickiness. If customers easily associate new and old business endeavors, they’ll trust the brand more deeply. For example, Uber customers embrace Uber pool and eats, as both initiatives connect to Uber’s high-level mission of getting them where (and what) they desire, wherever they may be, ASAP.

Alternatively, “off-brand” initiatives induce customer confusion and decrease retention which distance you from your business goals. Imagine if Prego sauce re-branded as Campbell’s (its parent company) you’d experience cognitive dissonance — as Campbell’s is thin and soupy and not what you want in marinara. You’d likely buy a different sauce and potentially soup brand moving forward. (*Note that Campbell’s decided to create Prego as a new brand name because of this issue.

4. Is the endeavor financially savvy?

Ideas are a dime a dozen, but good ideas which can actually make money are hard to come by. Before pursuing an initiative aligned with your goals and customer desires, research costs and opportunity costs. Make sure that the potential upside outweighs both.

However stoked you are on a given idea, think through what else you could accomplish with the same resources (financial and labor). Even if the idea “checks out” — meaning the business benefits will outweigh the resources it will cost — stay skeptical. Before proceeding, critically consider whether the potential benefits are positive enough to balance costs.

5. Is this initiative the real “MVP”?

No pun intended! Similar to the previous suggestion, before prioritizing an idea go through Minimum Viable Product (MVP) concepts and think about how they can apply to your feature. By starting with small, pared down, low-cost features, you’ll validate and refine your assumptions based on customer feedback. This enables you to identify the best experience without wasting resources.

6. Is it the right time?

T-t-t-timing is everything!

Is there a sense of urgency/crisis around what you’re working on? That’s a good indicator you should move quickly. If not, maybe you can wait and think more strategically.

Ask yourself: Will this initiative build a foundation necessary for future growth? Will present market conditions foster this initiative’s success? If the answer to either of these questions is “No,” it’s probably not time to prioritize this idea.

In conclusion, when building a business, prioritizing initiatives based on value and urgency is key. Don’t let excitement blind you from evaluating every idea’s true worth for growing your company and brand. When in doubt, Mitchel Harper says to employ the 1 / 2 method to always ensure you’re working on top value items. Use the guidance above to decide what to do next whether it’s what feature to build, when to hire someone(NEED LINK), or which new product to launch.

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