A Decision Matrix for Product Management

The Swarming TasksDo you ever hear those angry bee’s buzzing when you sit down at your desk in the morning? I sure do. They usually hang out right above the back of my head. That huge swarming list of things I need to do in order to develop my product line. Every morning I struggle with answering the question, “What am I going to do today?”

As team leaders and product managers this is a huge responsibility. Not only is the swarm of bees hanging around our desk, they have infested the entire office. Our goal is to provide the team direction on what projects we will and will not work on. So now we are back to the original question, except now it is more complicated. “What are WE going to work on today?”

Below is a decision matrix I use for managing myself and my team. I classify the majority of work associated with these endeavors into five categories. Below each heading are examples of work I would associate with each category. I suggest you write down all of the things you think you need to do today. Prioritize the list using the below matrix and work on whatever shows up at the top.

Proj Mgt Decision Matrix#1: Operations

The first thing you will notice is that categories 2-5 all support operations. I believe this is fundamentally important. It does not matter how well you lead, how incredible your team is, how much you sell, or how good you make your systems. If your customer is not happy because your product stinks, nothing else matters. So if you get in on Monday morning and can see a glaring deficiency in this category, focus you and your team’s energies there.

2 Lead#2: Leadership

The tasks found here are the ones you as the team leader should take primary responsibility for. Your goal is to figure out why the members of your team should care to continually show up for work in the morning. Once you have figured that out then you need to communicate those reasons to the team.

I also listed within this category hiring new team members. It is so vitally important that you take an active role in building a team that is aligned with the vision and values you have defined.

3 Manage#3: Team Management

This is the one I always want to push to the back of the list because it requires me to actually engage my team to see how they are doing. It’s easy when everything is going good, but hard when it is not. That is why it’s so important. Because if your team is healthy then most of the tasks on this list will get accomplished without you.

4 Sell#4: Sales Cycle

It’s important to note that working on your sales cycle comes before working on process improvements. You can find and eliminate all of the waste in your operations and systems, but if there are no orders coming in, you’re wasting your time. Figure out what your go to market strategy is and then work to execute it.

#5: Continues Process Improvements

5 ImproveAs I have mentioned before, this is a category I am very passionate about. It brings out my inner engineer and gives me the opportunity to take something that I have built, tear it down, and build it even better this time around. The problem usually is that the system I am thinking about tearing down is often working just fine.

If I can truly add some efficiency points by recreating the system, I usually will. But not at the expense of any of the previous categories. Here in lies the rub. Within the category of process improvement you typically find all of the new gadgets and toys being labeled as the next great revolution. All of those new software programs promising to make your problems and pains go away.

Don’t give in.

When you walk into work on Monday and examine your new To Do list, focus on any task associated with category #1 – #4. If everything is taken care of, then put your gloves on and grab that sledge hammer.

What tools do you use to figure out what to work on? Let me know in the comments below.

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