Projects vs problems

The new year is time for retrospective and planning. What is normally done every quarter by most product development teams is done more intensely during the turn of the year, together with other areas of the company, and for the entire new year. It is the yearly planning process, that normally comes together with the budgeting process. What will we do this year that is just beginning? What are the main projects we will work on during the year?

Even though planning is super important to have clarity about what projects are most important for the new year, this list of projects may make you lose sight of a very important aspect of planning, the “why”.

It’s not uncommon to see the new year planning for a product development team, and even for the entire company, as a list of projects. To help you see your list of projects in a different angle, add 2 columns:

  • one to describe what are the problems you are trying to solve with each project;
  • and another one to describe for whom you are trying to solve this problem.

I already discussed the issues of having a solution-oriented mindset vs a problem-oriented mindset but when it comes to new year planning, this issue gets even more troublesome. The benefits of having clarity about the problems you want to solve and for whom are you planning to solve these problems are:

  • Making sure the problems are aligned with the company’s vision and strategy: when we focus on projects, it is easy to lose sight of the problems we are trying to solve, for whom are we planning to solve these problems and if these problems are the ones that we really need to solve.
  • Defining what problems are more important to solve: prioritizing projects without knowing what problems these projects solve and for whom may make the priorities not aligned with what’s really important for the company. However, to be more effective in bringing the desired result, we should prioritize the problems to be solved and guarantee that the prioritization is aligned with the company’s vision and strategy.
  • Solving more than one problem with the same project: Sometimes you may figure out that you are trying to solve more than one problem with a project, and that may be ok. But you need to know that. Maybe you can have simpler solutions if you treat each problem separately. Maybe not all of them are worth solving at this moment.
  • Checking if projects are the best solutions: when we move our focus from projects to problems and have clear visibility about problems priority, it is easier to check if the projects listed are the best solution for the problem at hand. Sometimes we may be able to find solutions that are easier to implement when we change our focus to understanding the problems.

So grab your list of projects and create these two columns, problems to be solved with each project and for whom the problems will be solved. This will help you focus on the most important things for this new year.

I wish you a happy and problem-oriented 2020!!! \o/

Here’s a list of the most read and commented articles of 2019:

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