🎪 C.I.R.C.U.S. T.E.N.T. 🎪
Cost. Impact. Risk. Confidence. Urgency. Strategy. Touch. Effort. Necessity. Time.
Welcome children of all ages please step inside the circus tent. A circus is contained chaos; the dangerous and unpredictable tamed. A circus tent is a container for magic. Wild animals, thrills, and risks all housed together in one place. The circus tent is also a safe space to interact with clowns, I hope this tool will help you deal with the occasional clown. 🤡
Product management can sometimes feel like a circus. All of the wild twists and turns and then voila, a wonderful product delights customers! So let's get under the big top and tame some competing priorities.
Each category below acts like a tent stake, providing structure and stability. Here is a smattering of questions to get you started.
- What are the costs associated with solving this problem?
- Are these one-time costs or on-going costs?
- Is there a cost incurred by not solving this problem?
- Are there other limited resources we need to think about?
- What is the value that the business will receive by solving this problem (revenue, cost savings, enhanced margin, growth, etc...)?
- How does this help the customers and users of our products (increased satisfaction, delight, engagement, retention, etc...)
- How will this work impact the quality, sustainability, availability, maintainability, complexity, etc... of our product(s)?
- What is the social or environmental impact of solving this problem?
- What risks do we incur by solving this problem?
- What is the penalty for not solving this problem?
- What are we missing out on by solving this problem?
- How certain are we that this problem is worth solving?
- Is the problem clearly defined?
- Is our team well equipped to solve this problem?
- What is the quality of the source of information on these problems?
- Is our approach supported by credible data or is it just a "gut feel"?
- Why now?
- How time sensitive is this problem?
- What happens if we delay?
- Does this align with our vision and broader business strategy?
- Is this a novel/unique/differentiated solution?
- Is this something that we can easily defend or that is hard to copy?
- Is this something we need to do in order to catch-up with competition or is this something that gives us a competitive advantage?
- What number of people will solving this problem impact?
- How prevalent is this problem with our target customers?
- Will solving this problem help us grow relative market share?
- Will this open up new markets for us?
- How difficult/complex is this problem to solve?
- What is the degree of change necessary to solve this problem?
- Does this problem need to be solved at all, or is it just nice to have?
- Do we know that customers will pay to solve this problem?
- Do customers care if this functionality is missing?
- Is this a mission critical problem to solve?
- Does this unblock other more important work?
- How long will it take us to solve this problem and get it to customers?
- How quickly can we get to an MVP solution?
Translating to popular prioritization frameworks
Admittedly, this is not a prioritization framework. Most frameworks thoughtfully limit the number of variables in order to simplify prioritizing. The good news is that by thinking about the above questions it is easier to plug into an existing prioritization framework.
If you can calculate Impact as an anticipated return, and Cost as expected monetary investment you can quickly determine a hypothetical ROI.
Necessity (Importance) vs Urgency
Impact Effort Matrix
Impact vs Effort
(Touch (Reach) x Impact x Confidence) / Effort
Impact (satisfaction) vs Necessity (availability of functionality)
Necessity (as availability of proposed functionality) and Impact (as user satisfaction) applied to the Kano model is exceptional useful for determining if your feature is expected, provides incremental value, or creates customer delight.
Roll your own
Or build a tailored prioritization system suited to your unique business needs. Use a custom weighted scoring system, they are wonderful.
🐘 The peanut-scented smell of success
While silly, I hope this is useful and helps you to more thoughtfully prioritize work. Let me know what you think and remember me when you are flying high above the crowd.
P.S. I must confess. I renamed one category for this to work. Reach became Touch because CIRCUS TENT is way better than CIRCUS RENT. Yes, I know this makes this a forced backronym, but it is worth it. 🤡