Prioritization with Pugh

March 3, 20091 min

I came across a recent blog entry where Brandon Carlson was discussing one technique he used to speed up the prioritization of Product Backlog items with Product Owners.  He describes the scene like this:

“It was late July and I was sitting through yet another agonizing prioritization meeting. The sounds of debating product stakeholders filled the air, each weighing in on his or her pet feature’s relative merit, desperately trying to inch it toward the beginning of the development queue.”

Reading further along in the article, you learn they solved this problem by scoring each feature (on a scale of 0 to 3) how well each feature met twenty-two key attributes from the perspective of both the business and the system.  The features that scored the highest were moved to the top of the prioritization queue and the ones which scored the lowest moved to the bottom.  What broke the logjam for them was having the ability to talk about the features using data and moving away from advocacy.

What Brandon described is essentially Pugh Concept Selection – a Design for Six Sigma tool.  Bernie Thompson gives an excellent description on his blog of using a more “pure” application of Pugh to select between different cell phone plans.  Pugh was originally used to rank various design alternatives during Analyze, but again the Lean world has yet another mature tool that the Agile community can apply in our lightweight environments.