TBM 13/53: Good Idea?

First, I hope everyone is hanging in there. I feel asleep with the 2yo (Julian) and got a late start on the post. If I can help you in any way please let me know. Quick note...I've uploaded Lab 1 - Do This Now: 8 Ways to Focus your Product Team on Impact, Not Features. You can check it out here and sign up for the two remaining sessions.

File this under "common sense, but you'd be amazed how few teams do this."

Before brainstorming solutions, organize a team activity to design a judging/ranking guide. How will you pick the "best" idea? Try to make the guide accessible. Avoid insider language. For example, "delighter", "fits the strategy", and "customer pain" don't tell us much. One trick is to stick to structures like:

  • Probability that this will increase [some specific impact]

  • Confidence range that this will increase [some specific impact]

  • Degree of alignment with [specific strategic pillar]

  • Likelihood this will help us learn more about [learning goal]

  • Ability to approach incrementally vs. in one large batch?


  • Probability that this will increase average time-to-completion for the account setup workflow (from # to #)

  • 90% confidence range that this will decrease support requests related to failed account merges (from #/week to #/week)

  • Degree of alignment with our strategy to pass the rigor test with senior engineering leaders, who will then, in turn accelerate the sales cycle

  • Likelihood this will help us learn more about the unbanked persona with regards to their approach to money transfers

The goal here is improve conversations, not manufacture certainty.

I've seen a bunch of prioritization spreadsheets over the years. 90% of them were more theater and faux rigor than substance. Add some weighting here. Whoops...that doesn't look right...that should be 4.2 not 4.1! How do settle these two items tied at 92.1??? Wait, the CEO wants us to do that one...should we add a column called CEO DESIRABILITY?

What was missing? Conversation. Tweaking. Challenging assumptions. Refining language. And capturing that language in something reusable. You will notice that the implicit strategy will emerge from these conversations. Don't be afraid to try more subjective criteria provided the conversations are product.

Various facilitation approaches work; I don't want to be too descriptive. Experiment with individual brainstorming, transitioning to teams of two, and then larger groups. Try a contrived, less contentious scenario. And resit the urge to put this in a spreadsheet. That's where the faux rigor starts.

You know you are on the right track when you can comfortably plug in multiple solutions and have a good conversation. If only one solution “fits”, you’ve made this too prescriptive.

I’m so proud of the my team at Amplitude for the redesign of our North Star Playbook. It is so much more readable online. We’ve also added a PDF version. Check it out here.

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