When everything's important, nothing is important
If you're reading this post, chances are you're leading a product team or a startup on its quest for success. One of your greatest challenges will be to prioritize work and create focus on the things that matter.
If your company uses a tool like Jira to track all your tasks and foster team collaboration, I’m sure you have a huge backlog. You might be tempted to cut it down pushing your teams to take everything that’s important and do it.
Think twice before going down that road.
As a leader, your #1 goal is not to micromanage. That would be such a wasted opportunity. Your true mission is to create a shared vision on how to grow.
Get folks excited. Bring them together. Show them the way and enable a work environment that is at the same time safe and risky. Personally safe, because errors can be seen as lessons. Risky, because in order to move forward you need to learn through trial and error.
Be agile, scientific, and experiment. Be objective. Own the mission, not the results. The results are everybody's.
Does it sound too rhetoric? You may be surprised to learn the impact that quick wins can have on your business momentum and the morale of your crew.
But don't fall into the trap just yet. "Quick win" sounds easy, and it's not.
You'll need a plan to define, refine, evaluate and prioritize quick wins. You'll also need a method to implement and track them.
A lot of work, but not more work than you're already doing. Just the right work: impactful, visible, cohesive.
The requirements for your growth plan
1. Create your own definition of quick win
To begin with, you need to have a deep understanding of what a quick win looks like. The answer might seem obvious, but don't underestimate clarity. If you strive for a common vision, you need to get rid of misunderstandings. You don’t want people going into meetings to object with "I thought a quick win was..."
Here's a good definition of a quick win:
A quick win is an improvement that is visible, has immediate benefit and can be delivered quickly. The best quick wins are easy to implement, inexpensive, have a narrow and focused scope, and can be fully implemented within 60-90 days.
Tip: Get to the source to keep reading: it's worth it.
Read this definition 10 times. Discuss it with your leadership team. Will it work for your organization? Do you need to add or remove anything?
I, for example, don't agree on the lack of long-term impact, but this is debatable and contextual. If you combine quick wins with strategic projects, then you can tackle quick wins that are simply nice to haves. But if your growth model is based on experimental quick wins, then you must aim at solving big problems with small efforts. Otherwise you won't be going anywhere at all.
Take this digital marketing example by Mattan Griffel. Griffel suggests using facebook ads to quickly A/B test landing page concepts.
There's two ways to look at it. You can say that this quick A/B test makes you win 35% more leads on this marketing action. And that's it.
Or you can take this A/B test as a repeatable framework so that you sustainably overachieve in your lead generation campaigns and get the most bang for your buck.
That’s what I call long-term impact.
2. Agree on why quick wins should be a strategic focus
Remember: the reason why you're pushing for quick wins is that you want to create a tunnel vision of your results that every employee feels a part of.
If you're pushing for quick wins only because you need validation as a new leader, take 15 minutes to read this article from 2009 on the Harvard Business Review based on a survey to 5,400 leaders new to their roles. They discovered that quick wins create toxicity whenever leaders claim credit for themselves.
Turn this temptation around and foster a culture of shared ownership. Quick wins will be the solid foundation of an organization that constantly experiments, improves and adapts.
3. Decide what to evaluate
Your quick wins must be connected with your organization's core business goals. They must accelerate your velocity, generate new efficiencies, simplify heavy processes, increase ROI...
Your quick wins must also be connected to your current weaknesses. Are you building a business for scale? You want to cut the waste, optimize and do as much as possible with the minimum amount of resources. Are you transforming a traditional unit? Very similar principles apply.
Evaluate quick win opportunities based on their potential impact, and create metrics around that impact. Discussions about quick win opportunities must be unbiased and based on real data.
4. Create a growth management task force
You will need a diverse team to own the process for managing quick wins. They should be in charge of at least the following:
- facilitating sessions
- opportunity analysis
- idea prioritization
- planning and delegation
- monitoring and post mortem
- sharing results
- recognizing special achievements
Keep a lean approach towards all this work to keep it manageable.
The framework to prioritize the best quick wins
When building a framework to maximize the outputs of quick wins, take into account three phases.
First, the ideation phase.
Your team will fill up your backlog in Jira, or whichever other tool you’re using, with as many ideas as possible. Of course, these ideas will have to be prioritized. Similarly to any other prioritization framework for product managers, the backlog will have to be reviewed periodically to evaluate new candidates and reassess ideas that appear under a new light due to changes in the environment.
Second, the prioritization phase.
This is the real core of the framework. Your prioritization framework must be based in data and facts. Otherwise your entire evaluation will be biased and your task force will spend hours debating over the relative value of different ideas.
Create a complex score that summarizes every important aspect of a quick win. You can start with the three factors below and adapt it to your organization’s needs.
- The quick win diagnostic. Based in the work of Mark van Buren and Todd Safferstone, our chatbot will help you verify whether your ideas qualify as a real quick win or not. Remember that the focus is on shared victories and that you should not approve any idea for execution unless it has a punctuation of at least 9 or 10.
- Sustainability: Will the quick win have a long-lasting impact, or will it fade away very quickly? This score should be unrelated to the scope of the activity. Even the smallest innovations can create incremental changes that sustain improved results over time.
- Effort needed: If you use story points, you won’t find any troubles including an effort scoring for prioritization purposes.
- Impact: Much like in ICE or RICE, you will also need to take into account how much of a difference will the quick win make. Note that Effort and Impact will usually have proportional scores. You should go for minimum effort and maximum impact.
- Repeatability: Is this an isolated improvement or a new tactic that can be expanded throughout the company once validated? Repeatable quick wins are usually not sustainable, and vice versa.
Issue priorities in Jira will not be helpful to capture all these considerations. Instead, I recommend using a stronger prioritization engine that supports customized calculations and standard prioritization methods like RICE or ICE. Foxly can help you build a really solid, unified process with Jira Cloud at its core.
Third, the execution phase
It’s not enough to simply get things done. Certain milestones need to happen to make sure that the outputs of each quick win are really owned and transformed into long-term business benefits. To summarize just the most important:
- Task delegation: For bigger activities that are not assigned to an isolated contributor, finding the right team is paramount. Make sure to create a diverse team with someone who’s data savvy, someone who really knows the company processes, and a subject matter expert if required.
- Monitoring: If the quick win has lasting impact, the results should be monitored over time. Think properly about analytics and metrics before embarking on your quick wins prioritization program: a year from now you will be tracking 30 to 60 of them. Keep things tight.
- Dissemination: Giving visibility to the quick wins that have already been implemented is not only good for confidence. It can spark the imagination of other colleagues and generate a chain reaction.
If you create a data-driven prioritization framework for your quick wins, no experiment will have a bad result. Whenever you fail to reach the expected impact, there will still be a lesson to learn from. By taking a minimum effort approach, you won’t have burned significant time.
The knowledge and transparency moment are very significant in quick win failures; it’s important to have mechanisms to navigate frustration when results are not what you expected.
Combine a number of quick wins to accelerate results around the same business objective. It will be easier to look at a landscape where some experiments succeed and others show dead ends or less significant wins.