My coworkers and I spent a lot of time this year reviewing and revising our product roadmap. We discussed the best way to add features and adjust their priority over time. We wanted to remain flexible, to tackle important items as they surfaced.
And then I read this:
“It’s always good to be working on two things: The next most important thing and the next most interesting thing.”
— Jason Fried, Two i’s
Almost everything on our roadmap skews toward the important end of that spectrum. “We really need…”, “Our customers have regularly asked for…”, “This feature could really stand to be…”.
That isn’t to say that these tasks aren’t interesting at the same time, but often the next project in the pipeline is a labor of necessity. Hopefully the problem solving interests us because the technology and the product interest us.
Jason’s post reminded me that you simply can’t hope that important things interest your team.
After reading the post, I asked our developers: If you had two weeks to do whatever you wanted with the product, and no one would bother you during that time, what would you do?
As you can expect, their responses were nowhere near the top of the roadmap — but all of the projects we discussed would add value to the product. Even better, they’d keep the team engaged and energized.
Sometimes important is all you have time to tackle. Many/most times there aren’t two weeks to let a developer disappear into a project that might never be justified by business needs.
But there should be.
I’m reminded of Stephen Covey’s time management matrix from ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’:
We spend most of our time in life and work in quadrants I, III and IV. We routinely neglect quadrant II, but that’s where some of the most valuable things come to life.
Recognizing the importance of the interesting is the first way to ensure that you carve out time for it. To keep people engaged, allow innovation to pop up from unexpected quarters. The product and the company will be better for it.