What are you working towards?

Recently, I spoke with another Product Manager about how our efforts were focused around one specific objective.

We’ve been given a strong steer to focus on that one objective, and treat other things as secondary to it.

While we understand the primary objective is an important goal, we felt it shouldn’t be the only thing we are focusing on.

To help us understand the problem, I came up with a list of product objectives beyond this single goal – and then worked with the other Product Manager to refine the list a bit.

In no particular order, some of the objectives I considered were:

  1. (The primary objective, which I haven’t spelled out here)
  2. Improve user experience
  3. Provide insights and analytics
  4. Delight customers
  5. Increase sales and revenue
  6. Reduce call wait times

(Note: This isn’t the exact, final list – however it can be used to illustrate the benefits of objectives, which I’ll get to in a moment.)

We started going through some of the tasks we had either started exploring or were due to look at soon. Each task we linked to one of the objectives on the list. Some of the tasks were linked to the primary objective.

The immediate benefit of this is we can be sure that if we are going to work on something, we know which objective it’s linked to – and our stakeholders do too. If something is dropped because it isn’t linked to our primary objective, we are consciously calling that out.

This list allowed me to make a compelling argument to stakeholders: If one, primary objective is the only focus, do we agree that none of the other things are important to us right now? This is also easier to discuss as a broad objective, than trying to argue for or against specific tickets.

While it didn’t mean we changed to focused to all of the objectives I listed, it did move the dial a bit. Instead of focusing on just one objective, the stakeholders agreed we couldn’t ignore one of the others. And it also brought to light some of the other objectives that the team hadn’t been thinking of.

In short, it meant we could highlight the trade-offs we would be making in the product, at least for the moment.

There’s more to setting objectives than this – it’s the O of OKRs. The KR (Key Results) ties these objectives to metrics that will help us measure success. For now, talking broadly about objectives was sufficient to make sure we weren’t missing an important focus area, while still agreeing to pause on other objectives for the time being.

After all, you can’t do everything at once. As Product Managers, we have to find which areas will move the dial the most, and double down on those.

Photo by Mauro Gigli on Unsplash