TBM 45/53: Rank Your 2020 Initiatives (by Impact)

Posting one day early since I can’t sleep (election ongoing, send strength and good thoughts). Who knows what tomorrow will bring, so might as well get this out.

I was chatting with a B2B SaaS startup CPO recently about outcomes.

I asked him to rank fifteen product initiatives from 2020 by impact.

He put two items at the top of the list immediately. "These two are clear winners. The top one has changed the whole trajectory of the business."

I waited, eager for the next batch. He grouped three items together and placed them next in line. "We got good feedback on these. I can't sequence them, but I do think they had a reasonable impact."

What about the others?

"Two or three of them helped us sign deals, but I have no idea what happened since then. Not sure if they were a net positive to be honest. And the others? I have no idea. I mean they must have seemed like good ideas at the time, but I don't know."

I asked him how many things he would have traded for another big win like the one bet at the top. "Oh! Five of these (pointing at the bottom ten) for sure, or more!" Interesting gut check. What took longest? He pointed to one of the uncategorized items. Shortest? One of the items in 5th-3rd place.

So what?

First, I recommend this activity. Ranking can feel very subjective, but it is the conversations that count. It is also very important to remind your team that good decisions sometimes lead to not-to-great outcomes.

Second, it highlights how even in B2B the lightest amount of measurement and follow-up can go such a long way. B2B teams talk themselves out of measurement because they may not be able to perform A/B tests like [B2C Company]. But basic feature retention, task efficacy, and structured qualitative interviews are often enough!

Here's a way to think about it. This product leader having NO idea how to rank 2/3rds of his company's initiatives. Now imagine him being 20-30% better at the task, and the impact that could have on future decisions.

So...figure out how to do just enough measurement to get better at this exercise.

Third, consider learning reviews. If it takes a couple months for things to percolate, then plan to do a learning review when the work has had time to settle with customers. There’s no need to wait until the end of the year.