Do you know what drains energy and kills motivation? Prioritization. Take a moment to reflect on these questions:
I’ve experienced this problem from various perspectives: customer, software engineer, product manager, head of product, and chief product officer. One thing has remained constant: prioritization is a drag on energy and enthusiasm.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to simplify and streamline prioritization using the impact effort matrix.
To me, these frameworks seem overly technical and often overlook the heart of prioritization, which is collaboration. More often than not, I found that our discussions went in circles and the outcomes were mediocre at best. Team members would endlessly mull over a decision with only a few fully accepting it. As a result, we kept revisiting the same topics.
Ultimately, prioritization should enable teams to focus on what matters most. Teams will struggle with high context-switching costs until they agree on priorities.
Poor prioritization can demotivate teams and lower morale. However, you can transform this process with a simple tool: the impact effort matrix.
The impact effort matrix is a simple, direct tool that accelerates decision-making. The following image represents my version of this matrix:
When I first encountered the impact effort matrix, I wondered how it could be used for prioritization. I was accustomed to using multiple parameters, and now it was reduced to two. How could this work?
As Leonardo Da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
The impact matrix comprises two axes:
You don’t need solid evidence for either aspect. The primary goal when using this matrix is collaboration, which we’ll discuss shortly.
The beauty of the impact effort matrix lies in its ability to help you categorize opportunities and clarify where to invest your time.
There are different names and definitions for the quadrants, but what truly matters is creating a shared understanding among team members.
My version of the impact effort matrix includes the following quadrants:
Now that you understand the mechanics of the impact effort matrix, you might wonder how it can handle a backlog with hundreds of items.
The following steps will help you get the most out of the impact effort matrix:
Prioritization doesn’t have to be a nightmare. The steps outlined above help you embrace simplicity to make the process more manageable.
Beware of commitment escalation traps. No matter how well you prioritize, executing the work is a separate challenge. The more effort you invest in a task, the more cautious you should be because you might make mistakes.
Instead of diving in headfirst, begin with quick experiments to gauge what works and what doesn’t. Continuously iterate and scale your efforts gradually. Remember, prioritization is just the starting point; it doesn’t mean you must implement everything you’ve prioritized.
Keep an eye on the evidence and adjust your prioritization based on new findings. Effective prioritization enables teams to concentrate on what truly matters, allowing them to uncover hidden opportunities and create impactful products.
Featured image source: IconScout
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