Learn how to use Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) Prioritization in ClickUp with an efficient and data-driven template for prioritizing diverse project tasks. Achieve optimum value, avoid conflicts, and make well-informed decisions while gaining stakeholder goodwill
Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) Prioritization in ClickUp is an approach we can use to enhance stakeholder engagement and make work prioritization a snap!
Every project is made up of diverse stakeholders with differing views on prioritization. One of the challenges we face in prioritization of work is finding a way to do so for optimum value, whilst maintaining the goodwill of stakeholders, not riding roughshod over any of them, and not allowing undue influence to result in the wrong decisions.
This is especially important because we have the responsibility of prioritizing all the work, whether it has originated from the business (type one work in DevOps terms) or whether it has originated from IT (type two work).
Without some means of methodically setting prioritization we can all too often fall prey to two separate effects.
The first is an inability to prioritize at all. This effect occurs when stakeholders are in different reporting lines and have conflicting desires. Argument and conflict come from competing desires and when we get conflict, progress is stalled. The project team is often left as the party that has to make decisions which inevitably leads to winners and losers. It is not unusual for teams to be pressured into starting too much work, with multiple features at the same time leading to inefficiency, extra costs, delays, and shared misery all around.
The second effect occurs when everyone is in the same reporting line. We do get progress, but is it the right kind? In this situation an effect occurs where the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion has supremacy – also known as the HiPPO effect.
A data driven approach avoids the blues
Taking a data-driven approach helps us avoid conflict whilst simultaneously making the best decisions for the business. This sounds great, but we could spend a lot of time crunching statistics on deliverables. What we need is an approach that is fast, easy, good-enough, and inexpensive to use.
The widely used prioritization method, Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF), meets all those requirements.
It is fast and easy to use, does not take very long (so it is cheap), and it is good-enough because it takes a relative approach to estimates, examined through a structured approach which leads stakeholders methodically and transparently to the prioritization decisions.
By taking a data driven approach, examining each dimension of the decision in isolation, we abstract the emotion and avoid conflict. After examining each separate dimension, a simple and unbiased calculation generates a prioritized listing.
Participants commonly find that the prioritized list, once developed, differs from their expectations. However, they generally accept the results because they came from a process which they participated in and which demonstrated fairness and data-driven decision-making.
By deriving authority from this methodical and data-driven determination, the results become resistant to the HIPPO effect. Even the largest HiPPO will take pause when confronted with compelling data that was arrived at through collaborative effort.
WSJF in ClickUp
Clickup is a popular project management software-as-a-service tool. It is suitable for managing products of any type whether traditionally structured, hybrid, or fully agile.
Visionate Academy has created a standard template for ClickUp with the aim of accelerating and standardizing the platform’s usage. We developed this template for our consulting clients, and have made it available to the entire community. One of the template elements is the Product Backlog.
The Product Backlog holds all plannable work, including both type one (business-driven) and type two (IT-driven) tasks. The documentation accompanying the template explains the multiple various views associated with it, and how to use them.
In this review, our focus lies specifically on the Prioritization View. The Prioritization View is where we perform the Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) Prioritization in ClickUp. The calculation functions according to the formula below:
WSJF = Cost of Delay (CoD) / Job Size where: CoD = (Relative) Business value * (Relative) Time Criticality * (Relative) Risk or Opportunity and Job Size = (Relative) Job Size
The policy is that we must complete tasks with the highest WSJF scores first, and then proceed in decreasing order. Below is an image from the template, with some notional data.
We set all scores using numbers generated by a Fibonacci sequence, as follows.
Steps in WSJF prioritization in ClickUp
Here is the process to perform Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) Prioritization in ClickUp using the Visionate Academy Template:
Step One: Identify the relative business value (Column one in the template)
- Identify the item with the lowest business value and assign it a value of 1. This is our control item that we will compare everything against. In this example it is the recipe management functionality
- Starting at the top of the column and working down we assign relative scores for business value assessed against the control element. We ask stakeholders to bear in mind things like the impact on business goals, customer value, potential return on investment, strategic alignment, market demand, competitive advantage, user feedback, and revenue generation. When making assessments we ask them to do so in relative terms with reference to the control.
- We work our way down the whole column In this way . If stakeholders want to get into general discussion of prioritization of one item or another we gently bring them back to the method, and remind them that at this point we are simply assessing business value, not priority.
Step Two: Assess the time criticality (Column two)
- Identify the item with the lowest time criticality and assign it a value of 1. This is our control for this column. In the example the control line is the food search functionality.
- We proceed down the column in the same way as we did for business value, but this time we associate the questions stakeholders consider with time. We ask them to assess the item’s urgency, specific time constraints, and any potential consequences of delaying its implementation. Other considerations are alignment with project deadlines, market opportunities, or other time-sensitive factors
- Once again, if stakeholders want to start generally prioritizing items we gently bring them back to the method.
Step Three: Assess Risk or Opportunity
- Once again we identify a control, the item with the lowest risk or opportunity. In this case it is the UI/UX design. We can assess both risk and opportunity in the sme setting because the value is absolute, i.e. high risk or high opportunity have the same score.
- Once again we proceed down the column assigning relative values for risk. When assessing risk and opportunity using WSJF, we ask stakeholders to inquire about the item’s potential risks, their likelihood, and the impact they may have on the project or business. Additionally, we ask them to explore the opportunities that the item may offer, such as new markets, revenue streams, or competitive advantages.
Step Four (automated): Calculate Cost of Delay
- The template will automatically calculate the Cost of delay as the multiplicative product of the first three columns. Some authorities prefer to use an additive sum to calculate CoD.
Taking either approach has no impact since the numbers are relative. However, we prefer using a product rather than a sum in the calculation because it reduces the likelihood of ending up with fractional results in the WSJF calculation during the next step.
Step Five: Estimate Job Size
- In the original formulas for WSJF, we needed to assess the job duration at this point. We prefer to use job size as a proxy for job duration because due to the relative approach we are taking it is faster and just as effective.
- Once again we identify a control, being the smallest identifiable job. In this case it is the item on the first row.
- Then we move down the column assessing the relative job size of each item, compared to the control . We ask stakeholders to consider elements like complexity, effort required, dependencies, scope, data volume, specialized skills, number of steps, uncertainty, repetitiveness, customization, and integration requirements.
Step Six (automated): Calculate the WSJF
- The template automatically calculates the WSJF once the job size has been entered.
- Once the WSJF is calculated we can drag and drop the rows to have the highest WSJF at the top. We now have a prioritized backlog.
Note: Because (WSJF) Prioritization in ClickUp is a calculated field, Clickup does not allow automatic sorting on the column. This is why we must manually drag the rows into position. Luckily it is not an onerous job
Once we have the list prioritized as can then update the management view in the same way (row ordering between views in Clickup is deliberately not linked, so that individual views can be organized to suit specific needs.)
That’s it. We have now used Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) Prioritization in ClickUp to collaboratively set priorities on our backlog. At the same time we have proactively and collaboratively engaged with stakeholders, and have enlisted their support and buy-in for the ordering of work.
As you implement this approach, you will be amazed by the increased productivity and the absence of conflicts it brings to your project. It is a highly effective method that ensures smooth operations and efficient outcomes.
Grab the template and get going!
From any space in Clickup – follow the menu link
Then search for: Visionate Academy – Full project Loadout (Waterfall, Hybrid and Agile)
The project folder will be set up and you are good to go!