CIRCLES Method- Product Management Framework: A Comprehensive Guide (2021)


Consumerism has been fueled in today’s modern world by the constant development and creation of new products that are continuously evolving in order to satisfy human wants and needs. The process of designing these new and innovative projects requires a lot of cooperation and brainstorming that often occurs behind the scenes. Various methods and techniques are used in order to come up with effective product designs that can satisfy the needs sought to be fulfilled and one such method is the CIRCLES method. 

  1. What is the CIRCLES Method?
  2. Key Concepts in CIRCLES Method
  3. Steps To The CIRCLES Method
  4. Why the CIRCLES Method is Important

1. What is the CIRCLES Method?

The CIRCLES Method refers to a problem-solving product management framework that allows product managers and design teams to come up with thoughtful, comprehensive, and complete answers to various design questions. These design questions are similar across different types of products or services being designed, be it an automobile or a new mobile phone application. Some of these questions include what the product is, who is it designed for, why do they need it, when are where will it be made available, and how it works and the CIRCLES framework helps answer these questions.

CIRCLES method product management consists of seven linear steps that form a product framework covering all major aspects of product design. These seven steps can be found within the CIRCLES acronym and are comprehend the situation, identity the customer, report customer needs, cut, through prioritization, list solutions, evaluate trade-offs, and summarize your recommendations.

2. Key Concepts in CIRCLES Method

The CIRCLES Method in many ways serves as a checklist for product managers to answer the all-important questions of what, how and for whom to design a product or service. Lewis C. Lin, the creator of the CIRCLES product management method explained that there were three key concepts that the method addressed and helped a business or company understand. These are:

  1. Clarifying the goal: The company or business must establish what exactly it is trying to accomplish by launching and designing a specific product or service; for example, market share maximization or revenue maximization. 
  2. Understanding constraints: The product management team must be in a position to understand the constraints and limitations that they need to work with such as limited manpower, limited funds available, time constraints, or infrastructural inadequacies.
  3. Understanding context: The team must be able to fully understand the context in which the product is being designed and the answers to the questions why, for whom, and how the product is being designed among others, must be solid and founded on research and not mere guesswork or assumptions.

3. Steps To The CIRCLES Method

As mentioned already, there are seven distinct steps to the CIRCLES method and these are designed to be in an appropriate sequence to help product managers cover all their bases while designing a new product or service. These seven CIRCLES method steps are as follows. 

  1. Comprehend the situation: In this step, a clear understanding of all the contextual information surrounding the creation of a product or service is sought. This includes a thorough understanding of the product life cycle, how it is produced, and why it should be designed, and for whom. The value of the product must be accurately ascertained in this stage.
  2. Identify the customer: All the hours of work and dedication that go into the development, research, and design of a new product or service would mean nothing if there is no end-consumer. Therefore, before any product is designed, the product management team must be able to ascertain who are the potential customers based on their interests, needs, and preferences.
  3. Report customer’s needs: This stage is the continuation of the previous step wherein the customers are identified. Post identification, the design team must be in a position to explain exactly are the needs and wants of the customers and how exactly the product or service being designed can address those needs. Therefore, there must be a gap to fill in terms of fulfilling the needs of the customers and the product must offer a solution to this problem.
  4. Cut, through prioritization: There are different goals that a company may strive to achieve such as customer satisfaction, revenue maximization, or share maximization. But in order to achieve these goals, there are several external considerations such as time, labor, and capital available at the disposal of the company that may influence design strategy. This step, therefore, involves the prioritization of certain goals and targets over others based on such considerations.
  5. List solutions: An extension of the aforementioned steps, the product team must necessarily have a clear picture of not just the problem that is faced by the potential customers but also how the product or service offers solutions to that problem. A product designed without a solution could pose great challenges to a company in the future and is likely to fail.
  6. Evaluate trade-offs: There are three major criteria that every product manager must keep in mind while designing a product; ease of implementation, customer satisfaction, and revenue considerations. In this stage, the product team must be able to balance all the three criteria and evaluate the trade-offs required to achieve the objectives while keeping in mind limitations and constraints.
  7. Summarize your recommendation: This last step involves a basic recap of all the features and aspects of designing the product that has been covered and addressed in the first six steps of the CIRCLES method.

4. Why the CIRCLES Method is Important

The CIRCLES Method is extremely popular among product managers for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is able to ensure that the focus of product designing efforts is directed towards the users of the product and prevents a disconnect between the business or company and the customers. Secondly, it helps product managers to cover all the prerequisite areas of consideration while at the same time allowing them to break down the difficult task of product development and design into simple and comprehensive steps that allow for greater research and minimize risks.

The CIRCLES Method can therefore be used by any individual or company that is seeking to create or design a product or service to address what they believe is a problem. Be it a small company seeking to reinvent food delivery systems or a multinational company trying to come up with the latest range of mobile phones, the CIRCLES Method has a vast range of applications and use.


Interested to learn all about Product Management from the best minds in the industry? Check out our Product Management Course. This 6-month-long program takes place online through live instructor-led sessions. It is the only program in India that offers the ‘Bring Your Own Product (BYOP)’ feature so that learners can build their product idea into a full-blown product, and go through an entire Product Development lifecycle. Not only this, but this is the only program in India with a curriculum that conforms to the 5i Framework. Post completion, learners receive a joint certification from the Indian Institute of Management, Indore, and Jigsaw Academy.

Related Articles

Please wait while your application is being created.
Request Callback