Prioritize 'Weighted Shortest Job First'

Bart has been in ecommerce for over 20 years, and can't imagine a better job to have. He is interested in all things agile, or anything new to learn.

One of the key components of a healthy agile team is the existence of a prioritized backlog. This is the list of groomed user stories, listed in priority order, from which the team then chooses to add into the next iteration, the next sprint, or simply the next item to pull off and start working on. What is often not given enough attention is the idea of how to prioritize in the first place, and what criteria is used to determine the order of work. Out of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) comes a concept called Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) prioritization. And while initially used for SAFe, it can be used in all flavors of Agile, and actually in any methodology.

The concept behind WSJF is relatively simply to understand. The “SJF” simply means to do the shortest job first. There are many time management mechanisms that suggest exactly that; if you have a long to-do list, knock out as many short items as you can right away, so that you can open up space for other tasks. Some methodologies even suggest not putting very short tasks onto the list at all, that you should simply do them right away and be done with them. While this might make sense for time management, where everything on the list needs to get done sooner or later, it doesn’t make a lot of sense in a business that is trying to optimize for return on investment, be it time, effort or use of resources. That’s …

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