Learning prioritization and scoping

On our walk to lunch several days ago, a design colleague and I talked about prioritization and scoping.

These are two incredibly important skill sets, that come up again and again in the workflow of a product team. We might like to build everything we envision, but we cannot do that, for obvious time and cost reasons. And so we scope down, and prioritize aspects that are not immediately needed to some time down the road.

Many might say that this is the job of the Product Manager, but really these skills are present in great developers, designers, and marketers as well. There is a social benefit to being able to scope well: you signal to your collaborators that you are a reasonable person. You show that you understand that someone has to do work to realize this vision, and you believe that they should only do the necessary amount. They shouldn’t “kill themselves” getting it done.

I can’t really speak for other programs, but my design education did not emphasize these crucial skills. Heck, even my non-design college education should have, and did not, teach me about prioritization and scoping. Instead, these are left to people to pick up as they start working, and the skills are often seen as something that is inherent, like good judgement. You might learn scoping faster if you have good mentors; otherwise, you need to observe that these skills are necessary at work, find out what “good” scoping looks like, learn it through trial and error, and apply it. It takes a ton of time.

I see an opportunity for a workshop around prioritization and scoping, equally useful for design and non-design programs. This workshop doesn’t teach these skills in a one-way manner: I doubt they can be taught that way. Instead, it would have to be structured to have participants discover the need for scoping for themselves, and try their hand at it initially before refining their own approaches.

Who wants to do this with me?

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