Prioritization is a deceptively simple thing; anyone can do it, yet few do it right. Why?
Well, for starters, we often can’t help getting caught up in a moment where everything seems like a priority. We also spend too much time putting out fires, or become way too eager to get the easy stuff out of the way, just so we can feel good about our smaller backlog.
7 productivity systems that center on prioritization
You may be incredibly efficient at doing things that don’t matter much - which means wasted productivity no matter how efficient your team is, and so to remedy this, we use productivity systems that center on prioritization.
- Eisenhower matrix - which looks at urgent vs. important tasks
- Eat that frog - which focuses on the biggest, most important task
- Pareto principle - where 80% of outcomes (outputs) come from 20% of causes
- RICE - calculates priority scores through reach, impact, confidence and effort
- WSJF - calculates financial impact of not finishing a task, or being late
- ICE - looks at impact, confidence and ease before tackling activity
- Quick Wins - are quick, visible improvements with immediate benefits
The case for inclusive prioritization and how it fares better
Prioritizing at work seems like an easy feat; most people can look at a list of tasks and determine which ones will make the most impact. Yet, we consistently mess it up! If knowing how to prioritize at work is so intuitive, why are we bad at it?
Prioritization isn’t as easy as you think
When most tasks are considered “high priority”, how do you go about choosing? And when you do, how do you make sure that the decision taken by the team was unanimous? Is it ever? And what if a HiPPO came along (yes, HiPPO i.e. the ‘Highest Paid Person’s Opinion’) and made the decision on behalf of everyone else, how do you expect your team to feel included and want to offer their best?
Prioritization traps we tend to fall into
- We prioritize tasks too quickly, in a way that is chaotic and fast-paced.
- We bask into the delight that is fighting fires, but if you’re giving more praise to someone who put out a fire instead of the one who planned and executed a 4-month strategy, then we’re going nowhere!
- We want to be nice by never saying “no”.
- We choose to do things that are easier, and so we get swayed by the distractions and delay some important stuff.
- Quarterly business review meetings aren’t exactly there to showcase the innovative work being done; the numbers don’t always represent.
- Everyone thinks you’ve got the vision, but you don’t.
- We send mixed signals; saying something on Friday then another on Monday!
- Are we blaming it on the bandwidth?
What is inclusion in the workspace?
An inclusive space is a space where people feel like they can endorse their knowledge and talents in a very efficient way, for the greater benefit of an organization.
Inclusion is not necessarily about finding ways to fit people into structures that already exist. We would actually need to innovate on work structures that include different types of people, instead of sticking to existing prioritization structures (which aren’t designed to include everyone in the first place).
Priority Planning Poker is a great example of inclusive prioritization
What is Priority Planning Poker?
Priority Planning Poker is a technique that allows everyone on the team to equally contribute to the prioritization process by removing bias.
The fundamentals are quite simple:
- Create a poker room with a set of backlog issues and invite team members
- Allow the team to vote on metrics in real-time
- Show voting results, alongside each member’s votes
- Discuss further when necessary and re-vote if outliers are prominent
How does Priority Planning Poker work exactly?
The way it works is really simple.
- The moderator (session admin) leads the game.
- The team votes on metric values for every item that gets introduced; votes are then revealed alongside a calculated average.
- The team can then accept the final result, or in the case of outliers, discussion can be lengthened and voting retaken.
- Go on for 1-2 hours maximum, otherwise people won’t pay attention anymore and voting will get messy!
How can companies benefit from Priority Planning Poker?
Priority Planning Poker can be used as a solution to a number of prioritization issues:
- Lengthy prioritization sessions by the end of which you notice a new set of white hairs!
- Overpromotion of an idea because of someone’s obsession with it.
- The inevitable power trip of our beloved HiPPO.
- The unfair win of the loudest person in the room; simply because they’re loud!
- The tendency of a lot of introverts to keep their creativity to themselves.
- The probability of people opting for someone else’s opinion, rather than their own. Why? Because talking can be exhausting sometimes.
- Disagreement with no end in sight as opinions fail to converge.
- The difficulty of giving everyone a say when so many people are involved.
And so what Priority Planning Poker can offer is to:
- speed up the endlessness that is the prioritization session
- give everyone the chance to contribute
- highlight outside opinions that can help guide the discussion
- bring fun into the mix and play!
When can you use Priority Planning Poker?
Meetings, meetings, meetings!
- Planning meetings where priorities are decided upon by more than one person.
- Annual business planning meetings where initiatives and ideas are prioritized by executives.
- Backlog grooming sessions where stories are discussed by product owners/product managers and their teams.
- Sprint planning meetings where backlog items (stories, bugs and improvements) are prioritized by the scrum master, product owner and the team.
- Requirements management planning meetings which will include requirement managers, sales, executives, developers, the marketing team, and so on.
It’s common knowledge at this point in time that organizations without a strong diversity inclusion culture invite lower productivity as well as higher absenteeism and turnovers; in other terms, higher costs.
Voting matters. And so, managing to turn prioritization sessions into a way for all stakeholders to collaborate and contribute, not to mention have fun in the process as they come together, is very much in line with our transition towards a future that holds inclusion at the center of productivity.