Celebrity Prioritisation

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This exercise was co-created as part of a collaboration day between myself and Paul Goddard

Timing: 15-30 minutes

Materials: (Optional) Pre-printed photographs of 10-15 celebrities. Try and get a range of celebrities including controversial (Lance Armstrong), old (Nelson Mandela), difficult (Stephen Hawking), young (Justin Bieber)

Instructions: Set the scene that there is a cruise-liner with a number of famous people on-board who are now in mortal danger as the boat has hit an iceberg and is sinking. We don’t know how long it will be until the boat has sunk but the good news is that we have a rescue boat and be heroes by rescuing them. The bad news is that our rescue boat is small and we can only rescue one person at a time.

The task is to, as a team, put the celebrities in the order in which you would rescue them. Set them a time limit of 10 minutes

Learning Points: 

  • Some teams will fail to agree on an order. In this case, everyone dies. Here the learning point is that, in agile, almost any decision is better than no decision
  • Teams will often agree on the top 3 or 4 and the bottom 3 or 4. It often isn’t worth arguing too much about priority 1 v priority 2 as there is a good chance we will do both.
  • Arguing about priorities 10-15 is also relatively pointless as the boat will probably have sunk by then anyway
  • While rescuing person 1, you can still be thinking about who person 2 will be (you don’t have to decide everything straight away
  • Once you have rescued person 1, you can get some feedback on your decision and potentially change your mind for who you rescue next
  • Most teams will decide on a set of criteria for how to decide on their order (women and children first or contribution to society etc) – agile projects need this understanding too (often captured in the project vision). Things become easier then
  • Prioritisation is subjective – there is no getting away from that

Variation: Instead of pre-printing the celebrities, ask each person to think of a famous person (that is still alive) and write their name on an index card

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2 Responses to "Celebrity Prioritisation"
  • Adrian McInnes June 9, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    Found this exercise really great for my ‘Agile Refresher’ presentation I did with the organisation. I combined this with the Questions Only exercise (Which I did first) I had 4-5 teams try and prioritise the celebrities in a seminar layout. I wandered around and answered any questions they had. Most of their focus was on the individuals (“Are these people dead or alive?” , “who is that person?”) Often “women and children” was mentioned but never did anyone ask if that was the priority/goal. Once they had prioritised and we had spoken about the key learnings of the task I then told them there was a ‘right answer’ which was “Women and Children First” This reiterated some of the messaging from the Questions Only exercise where it is important that the team understand more than the problem as it is presented to them by clients. (Very much they were focused on the individuals celebrities (stories) and what they mean as opposed to what they needed to achieve).

    It was interesting that some people felt I had deceived them by not giving them the true ‘vision/goal’ but that was key to the point, a lot of the time clients and stakeholders true motivations can be masked by the fact they already believe they have a solution to their problem when in fact if the problem itself was understood then the solution may look completely different.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  • Adrian McInnes June 9, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    Found this exercise really great for my ‘Agile Refresher’ presentation I did with the organisation. I combined this with the Questions Only exercise (Which I did first) I had 4-5 teams try and prioritise the celebrities in a seminar layout. I wandered around and answered any questions they had. Most of their focus was on the individuals (“Are these people dead or alive?” , “who is that person?”) Often “women and children” was mentioned but never did anyone ask if that was the priority/goal. Once they had prioritised and we had spoken about the key learnings of the task I then told them there was a ‘right answer’ which was “Women and Children First” This reiterated some of the messaging from the Questions Only exercise where it is important that the team understand more than the problem as it is presented to them by clients. (Very much they were focused on the individuals celebrities (stories) and what they mean as opposed to what they needed to achieve).
    It was interesting that some people felt I had deceived them by not giving them the true ‘vision/goal’ but that was key to the point, a lot of the time clients and stakeholders true motivations can be masked by the fact they already believe they have a solution to their problem when in fact if the problem itself was understood then the solution may look completely different.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
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