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Prioritizing small features as a product manager - how?!

How do you approach prioritizing (or not) paper cuts in your products?

What I mean are things that are clearly a bad experience but if fixed it won’t impact your product KPIs

One small example that came up yesterday: one of the pages in my product has dates formatted as DD/MM/YYYY for the US, which is not the standard. It’s an annoying little thing that won’t change the game if prioritized.

My strategy is to sprinkle a few small fixes like this in each sprint to chip away, but don’t let too many of them get in the way of needle-moving features.


Our response

Author: Joe Tannorella
Rocket Role Team
How much user feedback is coming in on these paper cuts? Depending on the volume and nature of the complaints, it could help inform priority/urgency of fixing them. Do you have any metrics that show these minor issues are actually hurting user trust? It's really hard to measure but even finding a few real anecdotes would reassure you (and your team) that it's a useful endeavor. You can also use your own anecdotes of using other products to demonstrate internally the value of solving these things - you won't always get feedback on them, but if you combine a bunch of them they're enough to make users churn.

You're already slotting a few paper cut fixes into each sprint, but have you considered formally allocating a set percentage of each sprint to these? A more structured approach could help keep these from getting brushed aside, especially if this is agreed upfront with your team as opposed to you feeling like it's all on you to jam in some of these issues.

Is reviewing these minor issues a regular feature in your sprint planning, or more of a "when we remember" thing? Regularly tackling it can prevent these issues from accumulating into a bigger problem. Again, something I picked up from Lenny's podcast. I've gone through phases where we work on a big initiative for a while, neglecting the smaller paper cuts, but then upon reflection, the product is unpolished in a tonne more places...How are you communicating these fixes?

Acknowledging and celebrating these tweaks would be good for team morale and may also show users you're attentive to detail. Everyone knows about the bigger initiatives, but beating the drum of the smaller things is also beneficial (also makes you look good as people realise just how much you're managing to do in your team).

I've been interviewing loads of PMs over recent months for my Product Manager training platform (, and this is a super common issue. Unfortunately, there is no one single solid answer, there's so many variables. E.g. if your users are early adopters vs. if it's an established product like a banking app. On the whole the advice above is what Rocket Role tends to give, and from my experience is pretty much grounded in the reality of things. If you find you're prioritising them at the detriment of big initiatives, then you just need to find a new balance - there will always been sprints where you over or under compensate for them,

We also asked some experts...

Advice from thousands of podcasts episodes, including:
Here's what they had to say:

🔍 Prioritize Unmeasurable Impact
In the podcast with Casey Winters, he highlights that impactful projects at scale are often the hardest to measure, and hence get underfunded. This includes areas like user experience or performance. To address this, create custom metrics, run small tests, and use experiments to build buy-in at a broader level. It's crucial to get your team to buy into this approach.
Try this: Build a game plan around metrics or small tests to prioritize and show the impact of these 'un-sexy' areas.
Source: How to sell your ideas and rise within your company: Casey Winters – Lenny's podcast

🎯 Maintain Standards
Geoff Charles discusses the importance of maintaining certain standards across teams. If support tickets due to customer confusion are elevated, it's time to fix these issues before shipping new features. It's about maintaining a balance between operational burden, customer satisfaction, and customer confusion.
Try this: Track support tickets related to customer confusion and address them promptly.
Source: Velocity over everything: How Ramp became the fastest-growing SaaS startup of all time: Geoff Charles – Lenny's podcast

🚀 Balance Optimizations and Big Bets
Nikita Miller suggests considering how much time is spent on optimizations versus bigger bets. If simple tasks take too long to complete, it could indicate a need for better prioritization or faster action. The balance between these two aspects depends on the context of your business.
Try this: Regularly evaluate the balance between optimizations and bigger bets in your product development process.
Source: Driving alignment and urgency within teams, work-life balance, and the changing PM landscape: Nikita Miller – Lenny's podcast

Closing Summary

"Addressing minor issues or 'paper cuts' in your product may not directly impact KPIs but can significantly improve the user experience. Prioritize these areas, maintain standards, and balance them with bigger bets to ensure overall product success."

All "ask an expert content" does not represent the views of any expert or individual. All provided links are not affiliated or operated by Rocket Role.

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