Radically Honest Blog

The Product Tree Framework: Prune Your Tree and Prioritize Better

In the realm of product management, clear prioritization can be the difference between a thriving product and one that stagnates. 

Enter the Product Tree Framework—a visual prioritization tool that isn’t just another run-of-the-mill organizational gimmick. It’s about getting to the crux of what matters for your product’s growth and cutting away the dead wood that hinders it.

In this article, we will dive into the how-to’s of the Product Tree Framework, outlining each step to create a living, breathing representation of your product priorities.

By the end of this guide, you’ll know how to use the Product Tree Framework to create a focused product strategy that aligns with your business goals and user needs.

What is the Product Tree?

The Product Tree is a dynamic framework that embodies strategic product planning through a biological metaphor. 

It allows product managers to take their work to the next level by allowing them to organize features, tasks, and milestones into one cohesive, growth-oriented roadmap.

The Product Tree is made of several parts:

  • The trunk: your product’s backbone. Imagine the trunk of your product tree as the sturdy core features that are currently active in your product. These features form the backbone of your product, they are non-negotiable and intrinsic to the product’s identity.
  • The branches: visualizing priority. The branches are a representation of your product’s feature branches. Their thickness can vary to symbolize the level of importance – the bigger the branch, the higher the priority. 
  • The leaves: feature forecasting. The leaves are the key to the product tree. They represent the individual features or tasks that, when combined, compose the entirety of your product’s offerings. Each leaf is an idea, an enhancement, or a proposed change that could potentially be implemented into the product.
  • The roots: the supporting technology. Lastly, the roots depict the technological groundwork and infrastructure that underpin your product. As with any real tree, as the canopy expands, so too does the need for a robust root system. 

In the context of your product, this means that you must continuously consider and bolster the technological framework to support your growing feature set.

Building a Product Tree

Developing a Product Tree is an interactive and dynamic process that helps prioritize features and growth paths for a product. Here’s how to structure this engaging exercise:

1. Prepare your tree

Start by drawing the structure of a tree, including the trunk, branches, and roots on a large whiteboard or poster. The trunk represents the existing core features of your product. Branches symbolize areas of potential feature development, and roots illustrate the technical infrastructure

2. Gather your group

Bring together a diverse group from your team—spanning from developers to product marketers—so you can draw from a wide range of perspectives. Everyone’s insights will be valuable in ensuring a comprehensive look at the product’s future.

3. Write the leaves

Hand out post-it notes and markers to all participants. Invite them to write down their ideas for features, improvements, or even technical enhancements on these ‘leaves.’ Once done, each member places their leaves on the relevant branches of the tree, closer or further from the trunk based on the urgency and importance of each feature.

4. Prune the tree

The key to this exercise is in the pruning. Review each leaf’s placement critically. Facilitate a discussion on each one, considering its value to customers, alignment with product vision, and the effort required for implementation. 

It’s essential to be both strategic and sometimes ruthless, removing elements that do not serve the product’s growth or create obstacles.

This pruning process is not only about elimination but refinement. 

It’s an opportunity to scrutinize and optimize the tree, ensuring it represents a realistic and strategic roadmap for the product. 

By evaluating each feature’s contribution to customer satisfaction, adherence to the product vision, the required effort, and its impact on business goals and product strategy, the team will collaboratively identify the optimal growth trajectory for the product.

How do I prune the product tree?

Sitting down to prune the product tree is a critical exercise in focusing your team’s efforts on what’s truly important. 

Here’s how to conduct this crucial step effectively.

Evaluate feature impact

Start by scrutinizing each feature—represented by leaves on your tree—to assess its impact on the customer experience and business goals. Consider whether each feature is essential, nice-to-have, or superfluous. The leaves that do not significantly enhance the user experience or contribute to the business objectives may need to be pruned.

Align with vision and strategy

Every feature must be evaluated for its alignment with the long-term product vision and the current business strategy. If a feature doesn’t support the overarching goals, or if it deviates from the established roadmap, it’s time to prune the product tree and cut it off.

Consider effort versus benefit

Balance the benefits of each feature against the required effort. This includes development time, resources, and how it might affect the existing product infrastructure. If a feature requires a disproportionate amount of effort compared to the value it delivers, it’s a candidate for pruning.

Decide collectively

Pruning should be a collective decision-making process. Engage in open discussions and make decisions as a team to ensure that everyone is on the same page. This not only helps in making informed choices but also in gaining team buy-in and ensuring collective ownership of the product roadmap.

A lush canopy: the sunny side of the product tree

When effectively utilized, the Product Tree can be a product manager’s best ally, leading to a lush canopy of well-prioritized and strategically aligned features. 

Here are scenarios where the Product Tree particularly shines.

  • When aligning cross-functional teams: The Product Tree is incredibly useful for getting cross-functional teams on the same page. 

For a product manager juggling input from engineering, marketing, design, and sales, the Product Tree visualizes how each feature impacts the overall product ecosystem, fostering a shared understanding.

  • During strategic planning sessions: For product managers steering the strategic direction, the Product Tree serves as a living document that helps map out long-term plans. 

It’s particularly beneficial when plotting out the trajectory for the next quarters or even years, providing a clear visual roadmap that aligns with company goals.

  • In customer feedback integration: In the aftermath of a customer feedback blitz, product managers can feel overwhelmed. The Product Tree helps them categorize and prioritize this feedback, determining which suggestions should sprout into features and which aren’t conducive to growth.
  • For prioritizing backlog items: The backlog can become a dense forest of tasks and potential features. By using the Product Tree, product managers can prioritize these items effectively, identifying which ones deserve immediate attention and which can be deferred or removed.

In essence, The Product Tree is ideal for any situation where clarity, consensus, and strategic foresight are needed to guide a product’s development. 

By maintaining a healthy, well-pruned Product Tree, product managers ensure that their efforts are not just productive, but also align with the broader vision, delivering a product that grows in value and functionality.

When the leaves wilt: the downside of the product tree

The Product Tree, while valuable, may not always be the ideal tool for every product manager. Here are a few scenarios where its use might be less advantageous:

  • Rapidly changing markets: The static nature of the Product Tree can clash with the need for agility in fast-paced industries. It may not accommodate the swift pivots required in response to volatile market trends.
  • Highly technical products: Complex products with a focus on backend development might not be suitably represented by the Product Tree. More granular road-mapping tools might be needed to capture the technical intricacies of these products. 
  • Minimalist product approaches: Teams following lean or minimalist philosophies may find the Product Tree too cumbersome. A simpler, more direct prioritization method could be more fitting when the aim is to strip a product down to its bare essentials.
  • Large-scale enterprises: The sheer scope and complexity of features in a large enterprise might render the Product Tree impractical. For these, a Product Tree may become too complex and difficult to use effectively as a prioritization tool.

While the Product Tree offers a clear and collaborative approach to prioritization, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It is most effective in stable markets, for user-centric products, and within teams that can benefit from its visual, strategic representation of the product roadmap.

The PM’s hot take

While some might see the Product Tree as just a flashy tool for team workshops, I see it as a compass that guides us through the product wilderness. Sure, there’s a risk of overgrowth—too many features and tasks that can cloud the bigger picture—but with an emphasis on sitting down to prune the product tree, it becomes an indispensable map for strategic growth. Regular grooming is key; a well-maintained Product Tree can reveal pathways and opportunities that otherwise might be missed in the underbrush of daily tasks.


In the garden of product management, the Product Tree stands tall as a testament to strategic planning and team collaboration. 

Ready to cultivate your own Product Tree and watch your projects flourish? 

Sign up for Fibery today, start with our free plan, and discover how our tools can help your team grow a robust, fruitful product.

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