Alphabetic Proritisation: how to force stakeholders to focus

Alphabetic prioritisation
  1. WIP limits on backlogs. (Basically, limiting the number of items in the backlog) This is the best way to force the prioritiser to make a choice. If they can only have 10 things on the backlog, and a new item comes in, they have to delete an existing item, or reject the new one. Either way, they are forced to relatively prioritise, and this makes them focus on what is really important.
  2. Alphabetic prioritisation. If the prioritiser still can’t decide, it’s time for a bit of reductio ad absurdum. Simply agree that your team will do all the items, but in alphabetical order. They’ll start with any item beginning with A, then do the Bs and so on up all the way up to Z. At this point, they will usually say something like “but that’s absolutely ridiculous — surely some things are more important and need to be done first?”. You merely need to point out that, if everything is the same importance, it actually makes no difference whatsoever what order things are done. At that point, they will realise that there is an implicit priority order, they just haven’t been ruthless enough on their choices.

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Steve Wells

Steve Wells

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Building online versions of agile workshops such as the No Estimates game, to see how close we can get to the face-to-face experience for remote or hybrid teams