Prioritization, Resource Allocation – Framework for Founders

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I have engaged with the Start-up fraternity for a couple of years and have interacted with over 300 founders.

One of the common concerns I hear from some of them is that there is so much on their plate and they are unable to meet timelines, which leads to stress in the system. The psychological side of this issue is that we get almost 60,000 thoughts a day and our minds continue to waiver and therefore we lose time while worrying about multiple items instead of focussing and solving important and urgent issues.

Here are my thoughts on the framework to prioritize activities and allocation of resources. I have discussed this framework with a few founders, and it has worked for some as the process has helped them in meeting their goals and timelines and has enabled them to become more solution-oriented.

This framework is based on my personal experience of having delivered some amazing outcomes while solving for some of the most complex projects and driving growth. I have also attempted to merge my experience with the current challenges faced by the founders.

The framework does not cover the softer aspects which are equally important if not more.

Here is a three-step approach that could be explored.

Step 1

We could look at creating broad buckets (this is an illustrative list) where resources need to be allocated:

  • Foundation- Creating distinctive and sustainable value proposition for target customers, deeper understanding of the market landscape, evolving trends in both business and technology, building capabilities, defining long and short-term goals, fundraise, focus on outcomes, being process-driven, culture building, financial discipline, etc.
  • Customer experience and client stickiness- covers a deep understanding of the customer to acquire, retain and expand share of wallet
  • Scale and growth
  • Resource optimization

Capital and Resource allocation needs to be done depending on the stage of business and need of the hour for e.g the first phase of 3-6 months needs to be spent on creating the foundation for the business, followed by customer, scale, and then the optimization. Another example could be the fact that there may be an urgent need to extend the runway, therefore the filter to be used for prioritization will change, and focus may shift to increasing short term revenue and/or optimization. Just to clarify the topics covered under foundation do not necessarily need to be completed before initiating activities in the other buckets, projects need to be taken in parallel and not sequential.

Step 2 

Having identified the different projects, the next level of filter through which projects need to pass are driven by the constraints i.e., bandwidth, capital, capabilities, and timelines. The projects that have relatively higher impact and ease of execution need to be placed in Priority 1 (0-30 days), followed by Priority 2 (31-90 days) and Priority 3 beyond 90 days. 2*2 metrics can be used to finalize priorities.

Once P1 / P2/ P3 is finalized, it should only be changed based on some key factors /new information by the founder and his executive team. The P1 bucket can then be broken up into weekly goals and this should be immediate. The review of P2 and P3 could be taken up once every two weeks. This will ensure focus on the current projects and not have mind wandering on P2 and P3 projects. A disciplined and focussed approach is likely to deliver the best outcomes as the team will not worry about the anxiety of the future.

Step 3

Create teams to execute the projects, founders should provide requisite resources and authority and place their trust in teams. We could explore moving away from a functional organization to a team-based organization wherein incentives of the teams must be aligned to the outcomes. 

The review of projects is extremely important, fortunately there are enough tools available to monitor, review, escalate and communicate the projects on a real-time basis. I believe this approach of prioritization of activities, minimizing the time spent worrying, and generating negative vibrations, if followed consistently will deliver great outcomes. As always these are conceptual thoughts to initiate a discussion amongst founders and their team with regards to prioritization and allocation of resources.

Feb 2021