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Prioritizing with ProdPad: Using the Hierarchy of Purpose Framework

October 1, 2019

Andrea Says Product Leadership

At ProdPad, we’re big on focusing on strategy. Prioritizing without strategy can mean the difference between success and failure. You can either build things with purpose, or end up with a product that does so many things, it does none of them well. This is why the Hierarchy of Purpose Framework is important.

“Prioritizing increases the success rates of strategic projects, increases the alignment and focus of senior management teams around strategic goals, clears all doubts for the operational teams when faced with decisions, and, most important, builds an execution mindset and culture.”

Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez

The Hierarchy of Purpose framework can be applied to help companies prioritize strategically. The framework was developed by Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez, Director of the Program Management Office at GlaxoSmithKline. He has worked with Apple, Amazon, Lego, Ikea, and Western Union.

How can ProdPad help you apply the Hierarchy of Purpose framework?

The framework focuses on five main points:

Purpose

What is the purpose of the organization and how is that purpose best pursued? What is the strategic vision supporting this purpose?

This is where the product canvas comes into play. The product canvas allows you to enter your product’s vision and objectives, tying those into your product roadmap. The canvas acts as a base for you to develop your roadmap as you map out your strategy.

Priorities

Given the stated purpose and vision, what matters most to the organization now and in the future? What are its priorities now and over the next two to five years?

Have we told you before about how you should ditch those timelines? Because you should ditch those timelines. It’s not about how fast, it’s about what you’re working on and why! The roadmap helps you plan out those priorities in Now, Next, Later columns so you have see a high level view of all of your priorities.

the hierarchy of purpose framework
The ProdPad roadmap feature

Projects

Based on the answers to the first two points, which projects are the most strategic and should be resourced to the hilt? Which projects align with the purpose, vision, and priorities, and which should be stopped or scrapped?

Each roadmap card represents a project or initiative your team will be working on. These initiatives will contain objectives that link to your product canvas. This ensures that you’re always working on projects that fit your vision.

People

Now that there is clarity around the strategic priorities and the projects that matter most, who are the best people to execute on those projects?

A team lead will take ownership of leading the product to success. This will enable the rest of your team to keep focus on the work. ProdPad allows you to assign product managers and roadmap card owners. Therefore, it’s clear who is responsible for leading certain projects, creating transparency across your organization.

Performance

Traditionally, project performance indicators are tied to inputs (e.g., scope, cost, and time). They are much easier to track than outcomes (such as benefits, impact, and goals). However, despite the difficulty companies have in tracking outcomes, it’s these that really matter. What are the precise outcome-related targets that will measure real performance and value creation? Reduce your attention to inputs and focus on those instead.

Outcome focused roadmaps. This is what we’re all about. As you complete your roadmap cards, you’ll be prompted to write out an outcome for the initiative. Did you reach your objectives? Did you fulfill your objectives? Are there any next steps after the completion of this project? Now you have it all in a single place for reference.

It is recommended that your team reviews roadmap cards one week after launch, one month after, three months, six months. You can then check the outcomes and make sure that the solution created actually solved the problem. 

Key takeaways

Whether you have a mature product or you’re just starting out, the Hierarchy of Purpose framework is useful. It ensures you get (and stay) on track. Finding a purpose – a problem to solve – is the key to creating a successful product. As Paul Graham once said, “the reason most startups fail is because they’re trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.”

By clearly stating your product’s vision, defining objectives, and laying out a strategy, you can then start focusing on the right things to build.

    Andrea is a Product Support and Management expert, technical writer, and social network monkey. An undercover geek with a passion for music, animals, and avid unicorn rights activist, she's always up for a challenge.

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