(53) Prioritising Product Managers’ focus around their strengths and passions
If you have been a PM for sometime, you would realize how overwhelming it is to manage competing priorities around a growing workload of tasks every day around your product. To ensure we work on what matters most, as PMs we need to be masters of prioritization — prioritization not just for the features we need to build for our products, but prioritizing our daily tasks.
I had written a separate post on a similar subject sometime back, titled, Identifying Circles of Concern for Product Managers. In that post, I talked about how to slot every task that comes on your plate into one of the following concentric circles and then decide the merit of your attention and action. For example, recently, I was invited into a meeting to decide upon how to name a potential last release of our product. I declined the meeting because I felt even though I could have contributed to that, the outcome would not be critical to the success of the product. I would be okay with what whatever name the team comes up with and hence it fell under the ‘negotiables’ circle.
However, the above graphic does not address how a PM should decide where to spend his focus gauging his strengths and inherent passions. For example, even though solutioning is critical to the success of a product, it might not be the strength and passion of the PM. And that is what I am trying to address in this post.
Passion Vs Contribution Matrix
This prioritising framework that I have found immensely useful comes from Amy Jen Su, Managing Partner at Paravis. And the reason this is valuable is because it measures your passion and strengths to the kind of work you want to commit for. All of us have our own strengths and inner gifts that we should be bringing to use to make our jobs meaningful and increase contribution to our organization.
- Quadrant 1 — High Contribution, High Passion: Great place to start working on these topics.
- Quadrant 2 — High Contribution, Low Passion: This a place where the contribution and value add for the organisation is high but may be its not your favorite thing to do. So, the guidance in this quadrant is to tolerate. The reality of it is, we are all not going to love all parts of our job. Or perhaps these could be areas where you are on a learning curve on a new skill or a new competency, which has high contribution and you need to tolerate it for now. For example, in my current job, I have to maintain a large Kanban board for the entire R&D organisation. Now, I am not deeply passionate about it, but I realize its importance and hence it falls under quadrant 2.
- Quadrant 3 — High Passion, Low Contribution : You get a ton of juice with this activity in your workload, but that task is not contributing much to the organization. The guidance is to elevate. You need to either elevate your idea so that others in the organization better understand the value add so that it becomes a priority and it moves to quadrant 1.
- Quadrant 4 — Low Passion, Low Contribution: This can be called the chopwood box where it drains you of your energy and you actually don’t feel a lot of passion. And the value add is pretty low. The guidance here is to delegate, hire or eliminate the tasks completely off your backlog. For example, of the numerous meeting invitations that I am invited to, I decline when I see my contribution as low or if there is redundancy in participants list.
In the recent months, I have found myself spending inordinately longer time on the discovery and user research side of products because according to me that is where I can maximize the value of my contribution to the product and the organization at large. Deepening customer insights and understanding what problems we want to solve is key for our success. This is my Quadrant 1 activity. On deeper introspection, I realized that this is also what I am passionate about. Interacting deeply with customers and unearthing their real jobs to be done (JTBD) is something that I feel deeply for. And then I pull myself back when it comes to actually solving the problem because an empowered sprint team is better equipped to solve technical challenges by themselves. I however am involved in reviewing the progress of the solution to ensure we are aligned to the actual problem we are trying to solve. The above matrix helps me distinguish that.
I find this matrix really effective to use. Do let me know if you have other frameworks and models that you bring to use in your daily work.