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Unblocking the work of others - a way to prioritise PM tasks


Product Management is known for being a widely diverse role. If you'd ask Google for what PMs do - you'd find all sort of activities.


  • Interviewing customers
  • Refining product backlog
  • Accepting newly delivered software
  • Doing demos
  • Tunning product strategy
  • Resolving conflicts within a team
  • Talking, writing, repeating


For all the areas PMs are usually contributing, check  Pragmatic Marketing framework


What is the most important activity among those? 

You wouldn't expect an easy answer, would you? Indeed, one fits all solution is missing here. Instead, prioritisation of PM tasks is extremely context dependent.
The state of your product. Organizational setup. External forces. Available resources. All those and many more make every PM context different and prevent us from coming up with a universal prioritisation method.

I tried several prioritisation approaches in different contexts and hadn't found a universal way. My latest attempt:
Most important is to unblock the work of others.

I'd prioritise the work other people wait to be done to continue whatever they've been doing. The more people blocked - the more important a task becomes.

Marketing manager needs a brief on new product release to prepare promotional materials? Writing a brief becomes the top priority.
Dev team stuck without a clear backlog? Refinement meeting becomes the top priority. Higher than writing a brief as more people blocked.

Disadvantages of that approach? 

Sometimes it feels like flouncing. You do "x" and suddenly "y" comes up blocking more people. You need to switch.
Organisational setup should enable it. If your boss believes that briefing him "on progress" is more important than unblocking the work of 8 people dev team - this approach will not work for you.
The work that doesn't block anyone will need to be prioritised differently. In this case, I usually try to predict which work would likely to block people in the future if I'd not do it now.
Unblocking approach doesn't work too well in case of time-bound deadlines. But if you have a strict deadline - priority should be clear anyway, shouldn't it?

Other than that, "unblocking"prioritisation works well. So far. I am still learning its advantages and flaws. So may you.

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