Priority Poker Guide

Priority Poker Guide
By Jacqueline Chick
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Prioritization is a key component of product management.

Knowing what to work on first, when it needs to be completed, and what's most important to your key stakeholders and your customers/user is critical to your success. 

Setting these priorities, however, doesn't always come easily. It can be challenging — especially when clashing priorities and personalities are working on your team. 

So let’s imagine for a moment that prioritizing the items of your backlog was easy. And more than that, what if it was also fun?

There’s no need for a magic wand to make that impossible-sounding transformation possible.

All you need is nifty little exercise called “priority poker”. It’s something we love using here at airfocus, and now airfocus users can experience it for themselves using the app.

What is priority poker?

Priority poker is a product management exercise that helps everyone on your team to collaboratively prioritize different aspects of a product. 

In this game/exercise, you'll provide a list of items and you'll then give everyone a pack of cards numbered 1 through 10. 

For each item you outline the idea/milestone/etc., and then everyone determines how important that particular idea is using one of their numbered cards. After some conversation, math, and repetition, you'll have collectively assigned values to each of these ideas/milestones that will help you determine how to prioritize them. 

While you can shake this formula up with your team, this is the basic concept behind priority poker.

It takes a stressful, burdensome task and splits the responsibility between multiple people. This allows your team to reach a consensus faster and (likely) with greater accuracy.

Get our Mastering Prioritization eBook

Learn how to prioritize by making it a simple process, to build products that stand out. Learn more about how to source insight, choose the right prioritization framework and much more.

Get the eBook

How do you play priority poker?

Okay now that we’ve tackled the top line ideas, let’s explore each phase of the priority poker game in a little more detail. Doing so will help you better understand how it works and how priority poker benefits your team. 

Choose an idea to prioritize

As with regular poker, priority poker takes place in rounds. Each round, your team will focus on a single topic. This can be an idea for your product, an item, initiative, opportunity, milestone, etc.

At the start of a round, you (or the product manager) will explain the topic objectively to your team. Try not to assign any value to it right now, unless it has objective value. You'll repeat this for several ideas so don't worry about which topic you start with; they'll all be covered eventually. 

Each person submits a valuation and estimation score

Next, each person is going to submit their value score by laying down the card from their pack, facedown. A "value score" is just how valuable that person thinks the topic is to the success of the project. A '1' indicates that they don't think it's valuable at all and a '10' indicates that they view it as essential. 

After everyone has set down their scores, have everyone flip their cards over. If there are outlying scores (e.g., everyone put a '9' or '10' aside from one person, who laid down a '2') break into a conversation about why these scores were laid down. See if they change the views of others in the group. 

airfocus Priority Poker

Then, each person will submit an estimation score. This is how much effort you expect the topic to take. A '10' indicates that this will be a difficult and lengthy task to complete, while a '1' represents a nominal task. 

Come up with an average score for each topic

Lastly, divide the average valuation score by the estimation score, and you get the final score for that topic. A higher final score indicates that the topic provides more value than it takes to execute, while a lower score (especially a score less than 1) indicates that the task might take more effort than it's worth. 

Repeat these steps for each topic in your list, then use their final scores to begin prioritizing them!

Get our Mastering Prioritization eBook

Learn how to prioritize by making it a simple process, to build products that stand out. Learn more about how to source insight, choose the right prioritization framework and much more.

Get the eBook

How to use airfocus Priority Poker

Now that you know how to play priority poker, you might be thinking to yourself that it sounds like a lot of math, writing, and card-passing. That's why we implemented a specific app called Priority Poker right into airfocus!

The airfocus Priority Poker app is an interactive, collaborative, and inclusive way to prioritize as a group and make decisions in the most time-efficient manner.

This allows your team to play the game easily, digitally, with all of the math and scoring being done for you. You can access this feature and a plethora of other resources by starting using airfocus today.

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