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The most common product prioritisation frameworks. And they're not the ones you think.
There are likely hundreds of prioritisation frameworks in product management, but the most common, unfortunately, aren’t the ones you think. I call them “unframeworks” 😭.
You’ve probably heard about the prioritisation matrix (crossing effort and impact), MoSCoW (bucketing from “the must” to the “not right now”), the ICE or RICE (with a clear equation that does the math on your behalf) or the balanced bet portfolio (getting you in an equilibrium of innovative things and “keep the lights on”). But the reality is often quite different.
Here are the most typical prioritisation environments:
HIPPO aka Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. This is probably the most common: the highest paid person in the room, which often correlates with the executive or most senior person, calls the shots. Many mistake the org chart hierarchy with the right skills for product prioritisation.
FOPO aka Founders Personal Opinion. This is when founders are still deeply involved in product decisions, and haven’t “let go of their baby”. Even though founders have a really strong voice (obviously) it doesn’t mean this “voice” optimizes for the best bets. This is also known as the “shinny thing syndrome” where every other day a new idea is “the most important thing ever”. Hardest to get out from.
LOSHO aka Loudest Shouters Opinion. This is quite typical in sales-led organisations, where senior sales leaders tend to “voice” (if you know what I mean) their needs and desires. Even though you quantify the different opportunities, there is nothing like turning up the decibels to make their message heard.
NOHO aka No One Has Opinion. As companies grow, this becomes the most common “framework”. Everyone thinks someone else will make the call, so why say something wrong? Probably there is also a mix of HIPPOs and LOSHOs, so why pick a fight?
So how do you get away from this?
Understand which framework fits your product stage and org culture. Often people converge to the “unframeworks” because whatever process you chose is too complex, heavy or leads to slow decision making.
Run your frameworks in parallel with the “unframeworks”. Then ask for a control group (a squad, area or product), apply them and measure the outcomes. Everyone will be surprised.
Ask “why” a few times before each decision. Rarely any of the “opinions” survive a thoughtful questioning, and this should trigger good antibodies (i.e. people who believe in a process-based decision making approach).
Prioritisation frameworks is what keeps you from being the most hated person in the company. It’s not you, the PM, saying “No” all the time: it’s the framework.
It will make your life 100x easier.