Open sourcing the Product Planning Prompt Pack


When you're planning a new feature, perhaps you have a big checklist of things you go through. Or maybe you don't, and just hope that you've remembered everything. I was one of those checklist people, adding items to my launchlist over the years based on what I'd learned from shipping the previous feature – things that I was embarrassed that we'd miss in the rush of delivering something new, like "add logging" and "check the design works on small screens". This helped define what "done" meant for a feature.

As the list got longer, I noticed teams became less enaged with the items that were on it. I tried putting the feature lead in charge of ensuring those items were done, but I could tell it was being regarded as yet another chore. I wanted to change that, make it feel more fun, more collaborative.

So, I turned the checklist items into cards and handed them out. In this digital world, there's something appealing about having a card you can hold. Sure enough, instead of a to-do list, it became a conversation.

A photo of a stack of blank playing cards. The card at the top of the stack has the words 'Product Planning Prompt Cards' written by hand. A second card says 'How could someone exploit this?' and a third says 'How will this work at 10 times the scale?'
The original (or MVP) Planning Pack was handwritten on blank playing cards.

Over time, I added advice next to the prompts, to help new team members understand why this was important, or just to provide a bit more context. I added labels to each card to indicate whether it was a design-type consideration or more of a security-type one. This caused subject matter experts to be involved in the planning to provide input, and finally I could see the team really value the planning.

A photo of a stack of printed cards. The card at the top of the stack is purple and has the words 'Product Planning Prompt Pack' printed on it in white text. A second card says 'What if this feature gets 10 times the expected usage?' with smaller text underneath saying 'What needs to be put in place to ensure that high levels of usage don't cause a negative impact on the rest of the system?'
After the product team doubled in size, writing out cards by hand didn't scale, so I got some printed.

Most of the cards in the deck have a story that comes back to hindsight. For example, "how will the engineering team know if this stops working?" was added when a product manager noticed low usage on a new feature, and realised it had silently stopped working some time ago. There's a card about adding audit logs that puts the people planning the feature in the shoes of the oncaller, after an oncall incident that would have been resolved more quickly with better logs.

I'm down to my very last printed pack, so rather than get another batch printed, (and somewhat inspired by Russell Davies's book Everything I Know about Life I Learned from PowerPoint), I've typed up the contents of the cards into a slidedeck.

You can get the download links and instructions on my Product Planning Prompt Pack project page. Yep… that's quite a mouthful.

I'm looking forward to seeing how other teams use these, and what prompts they add to their own decks.