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Aligning on three things before diving into a solution can help ensure teams spend the right amount of time and energy solving every problem.
Start every project with a problem statement that answers these questions:
A well-crafted problem statement ensures the team shares an understanding of the core problem your customers are facing. But not every problem is equally important. Some problems need a straightforward solution, while others require more innovation.
The steps you take – and the amount of time you spend on each one – should vary from problem to problem depending on these factors. By failing to acknowledge the differences early, teams risk misallocating their focus and energy when solving problems, investing too much or too little in each one.
Apply a simple three-part framework before you start exploring solutions. By accounting for these differences at the beginning of each project, you can align on how to approach the solution. It ensures you’re focusing on the right areas with the right resources, and it’s the lever that moves the team from the problem space to the solution space.
Rank each point as “low”, “medium”, or “high”.
Is this solution something we want to innovate on and own as an industry leader and differentiator, or is it table stakes where we want to be on par with the market?
Understanding where a project sits within the product strategy should help steer the ranking. If the problem is directly tied to your product’s differentiation, innovation should be higher. The team should spend more time thinking big, evaluating multiple directions, and iterating before committing to a solution.
Before we start a project, we usually consider potential innovation within the latter two categories – product strategy and execution.
Do we intend to spend a lot of time on this project and potentially enlist resources beyond our teams? Or is it something we want to solve rapidly at a low cost?
When ranking investment, ensure your team has a practical understanding of what it will take to complete a project. Projects that require a lot of engineering effort, especially if contributions from multiple teams are needed, will automatically rank higher in the investment category.
Is this time-sensitive? Is it something we want to get to the market as quickly as possible, or do we have the luxury of spending a lot of time here?
Urgency can have both top-down and bottom-up inputs. Product and launch strategies can dictate a problem’s urgency from the top down. If your strategy demands a compelling solution in one core area, the urgency to build that solution will be higher.
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