Last reviewed: 1 February 2022

Activities

Priority mapping

A way to prioritise work and create focus.

  • 1 - 8 people
  • 45 minutes to 1 hour

Advice on priority mapping

Why do a priority map

Priority mapping can help you and your team to identify what:

  • to work on next
  • not to work on at all
  • the relative effort and value of something is
  • contribute their thoughts
  • work might need breaking down into smaller chunks

Prioritising is something we do all the time however there is value in mapping all the information - allows you to visualise everything, reflect…

Who is involved

People with a range of different perspectives and knowledge which usually includes:

  • a facilitator
  • team members with an understanding of the things being prioritised
  • subject matter experts
  • any relevant stakeholders

When to do a priority map

You can use this method when you:

  • have lots of relevant stakeholders and need to work out where to start
  • want to understand the relative value of something compared to another
  • want to build a shared agreement of the relative priority of different pieces of work

Things you’ll need

A shared digital or physical space so that everyone can see and what you are working on together.

Digital or physical sticky notes and marker pens.

Any reference, data or other context that could help.

Tips on running the session

Everyone will have their own interpretation of value and effort so allow plenty of time for discussion.

If you’re not sure exactly where something should be placed on the map that’s fine. It helps to plot several things on the map, take a step back and reflect, then move things around again until you’re confident with the overall order of work on the map.

Different groups have different choices for check-ins. Some like new questions to get to know people, other groups prefer focused questions with a clear link to the session’s purpose. If you’re not sure, you can ask people before the day of the session.

How to do a priority map

This is one way of doing this activity based on our experience.

You might want to adapt it or only use part of it.

Teams often find their own way of doing an activity. This is a guide to get you started.

  1. Welcome and introductions

    Welcome everyone to the session. Ask everyone to introduce themselves if the group don’t know each other.

  2. Introduce the aims of the session

    For example: “We’re here to prioritise work in the backlog and give ourselves a focus for the next few weeks.”

  3. Discuss any blockers or limitations

    For example, you may have a time limit or deadline that you need to deliver to.

  4. Discuss the kind of things that you’ll be mapping

    Explain that you’ll be placing things on the map based on their relative ‘effort’ and ‘value’ to one another.

    Effort and value will mean different things to different teams.

    Value usually means; how well something meets a business outcome or user need.

    Effort usually means; how much time could this take the team to deliver.

  5. Do the priority map

    Draw 2 intersecting lines, that give you four quadrants

    Label the top of the vertical line as 'most value' and the bottom as 'least value'.

    Label the right of the horizontal line as 'most effort' and the left as 'least effort'.

    Discuss and plot your ideas or features on the map as a group using post-its so you can move things around. The real value here is in having an open conversation as a group and agreeing what the value of the thing is.

  6. Review the priority map

    When you’ve placed everything on the map, usually the focus would be on the high value, low effort items, however it’s up to the team to discuss and decide themselves.

    You might decide to work on a higher value item that could take longer to deliver.

  7. Close the session

    Review the aims you set at the start of the session - is there increased clarity or knowledge?

    Ask if anyone has any questions or would like you to explain anything.

    Explain what will happen next. For example: “we’ll start work on the things we’ve prioritised as high value and low effort as soon as possible. We’ll assess if and when we do the other items.”

To decide what you work on next, go to ways of working activities.

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