ResourcesTeam Building Activities

Collective Prioritisation

Have you ever been part of a mind-mapping session where there are too many options or concepts to consider? Have you ever facilitated a retrospective with so many topics for discussion you don’t know where to start?

If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to either of these questions, then collective prioritisation and dot voting may be what you need to help prioritize and converge on your next steps for action…

Tools Required

  • Sharpie pens / whiteboard markers
  • For teams working remotely, online work-spaces such as Mural or Miro have built in dot voting applications.

Method

Dot voting is a quick and simple tool to help teams make decisions on prioritization swiftly and collectively, but there are a few rules to follow.

  1. Is everyone clear on what each post-it note means? Before commencing voting, encourage people to speak up and seek clarity where needed. People can’t effectively vote on what they don’t understand.

    Spend no more than 10 – 20 seconds to summarize and clarify each post-it note or grouping that team members don’t understand.


  2. Agree the number of votes. The sweet spot is around 3 – 5 votes. However, you may want to consider using fewer votes per-person if you’re in a group of over 5 people.

  3. The rules of voting. As a group, you need to agree on the rules for casting of votes and answer the following questions:

    – Can people place multiple votes on one post-it note for something they are particularly passionate about?

    – If using in a retrospective, such as the Speed Car, can votes be split across different sections of the board?

    – How long do people have to cast votes?

    A short time-box of 1 minute will help keep your team focused on what matters most.


  4. Casting of votes. Once the rules of voting are agreed, your group is ready to cast their votes. It’s good practice to let people know when they are half way through their time box to vote.

  5. Re-prioritize your list.
    You will now have options from your post-its with a priority based on the weight of votes placed.

    If you find ideas or post-it notes with the same number of votes you may wish to give people an extra vote across these if it comes to the point of needing to progress with just one of these options.


  6. AnchoringBe mindful of anchoring. This exercise is great for collective decision making, but be aware that people may be influenced either by the first item to receive a vote or through the voting pattern of the more vocal members of your team.

    If dot voting with remote teams in Mural votes are cast anonymously, thus avoiding this challenge.

Takeaways

Collective prioritisation is well used in retrospectives, lean coffee sessons, and mind mapping workshops, but its value can often be overlooked.

Dot voting is a great tool every Scrum Master should have in their toolbox to quickly draw upon when teams are stuck on what to do next.

Chris Spackman

Chris is an experienced Scrum Master with a demonstrated history of challenging the assumptions that impede Agile transformation. He's passionate about people and fostering the culture needed to grow and deliver great digital products.

Chris is a skilled trainer who has a hunger for learning, something he role models and aims to impart on the individuals and teams he works with. He's a Doctor of Philosophy with a background in further education and was a lecturer in history before becoming a Scrum Master.

SUPERPOWERS | Putting people first. Training. Education.
KRYPTONITE | Archaic processes. ‘Yes, but’. Expensive Post-it notes.

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