Prioritizing backlogs across diverse stakeholders simply and easily

schedule Mar 16th 12:30 - 12:50 PM place Grand Ballroom 1
Can we get 100 people to agree on what to prioritise to the top of a backlog? Sure we can. Can we identify a reliable systematic system we can use to get this done in just a few minutes? Of course we can.
Requires 100 people to meet the claims in the session, but we can run this with ANY amount of people from 3 (Easy!) to 300 (Equally easy!)
I learned this one from Alistair Cockburn in a pub. It's a neat trick.

Outline/Structure of the Talk

Co-presented with Abdul Salam

Open: 3 minutes

We open the activity by asserting "Getting agreement on backlog prioritise across complex stakeholder networks is hard, and we need a good process to solve the problem."

We then promise to be able to get [x = number of people in the room] to agree on a prioritized backlog in under 15 minutes.

Activity: 12 minutes

We set a goal for prioritization

We ask people to form pairs

We give them x minutes to come up with options and resolve the priorities 

(x based on size of group)

Repeat 3-4 times until we have one prioritized goal

Close: 3 minutes

Talk about how at each level of complexity (ie size of group) different methods were used. Different groups also used different methods.

Clarify important of managing complexity by giving people clear goals & constraints and then control of how they get there.


Learning Outcome

What's the mechanism? Put people together, give a clear goal a simple set of constraints (i.e get consensus in 20 minutes) and get out of the way.

Teach people that simple constraints and simple agile methods like small groups, face to face collaboration can solve very complex problems.

This has an opportunity for people to generate insights but is also lots of fun.


Target Audience

product owner, scrum master, business analyst, project manager, consultant

schedule Submitted 4 years ago

Public Feedback

comment Suggest improvements to the Speaker
  • Fincy Yousuff
    By Fincy Yousuff  ~  3 years ago
    reply Reply

    Hello Craig!

    It would be great if you could share a draft of your presentation please. Also, if you have presented elsewhere, a video that we can refer to, just to understand your presentation style would be great!

    Adding on, a thought - What if the stakeholders are not co-located? How can we make sure prioritization of backlogs are done effectively in such situations? Would you be covering this aspect in your Talk?

    Thanks and Regards,


    Thanks and Regards,



    • Craig Brown
      By Craig Brown  ~  4 years ago
      reply Reply

      Hi Fincy

      Thanks for the feedback. I don't have anything recent, but I do have this classroom session recorded from a few years ago.

      I do not typically use slideware these days. Instead I focus mainly on getting people to learn through interacting with each other.  My share of speaking is smaller than the audience's. But don't worry, I get people very engaged and actively and enthusiastcally participating.

      I have deliverred over 50 meetup sessions in Austraia mostly but also a few in Bangalore. I have spoken at several conferences including PMI, IIBA (Australia and India), Agile conferences (Australia and Singapore) and more, including running my own conferece in Australia (

      As for dealing with distribted teams - that is not the focus of this session, but acknowleding it and discussing it can easily be accomodated if people want to talk about it.


      • Fincy Yousuff
        By Fincy Yousuff  ~  3 years ago
        reply Reply

        Hello again Craig,

        For a talk, slideware may not be necessary - I agree. It may take some portion of people's attention. But it would be a good idea to record your sessions for reference :) ...just a suggestion.

        And about Distributed Teams - I think it would be a good idea to cover this. This way you would be covering one more aspect or challenge in backlog prioritization. What do you say?

        Thanks for sharing the video!

        Thanks and Regards,


    • Craig Brown
      By Craig Brown  ~  3 years ago
      reply Reply

      Fincy just to be clear, this is an interactive session, not a lecture. I'll be having people out of their chairs and moving around.

  • Craig Brown
    Craig Brown
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    schedule 4 years ago
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