WSJF (short for Weighted Shortest Job First) is a useful prioritization technique, but it may feel a bit overwhelming at first. To get familiar with it in a fun setting, you can do the “Vacation activities” exercise. This works well either alone or together with your team.
Exercise: prioritize “Vacation activities” with WSJF
Imagine being on vacation on a Caribbean island. Together with your family, friends, or significant other, you are guests of a premium resort. There is only one day left in your vacation, and then you will return home. You want to make sure to spend the last day wisely, enjoy your time there, and create memories that you can take back home.
After reading the list of possible activities given to you by the resort, you realize you may only have time to do one or two of these activities… which ones to choose? You need to prioritize the list and choose the activities that not only are most enjoyable but also create the greatest memories. Some activities have a time criticality: they are in high demand, and if you don’t reserve your spot now, you won’t be able to do them.
Work your way through the table, estimating all activities one column at a time. Once you have filled all columns, calculate WSJF. The highest number indicates the activity you should select to maximize the time remaining on the island. Now, relax and enjoy your vacation!
Exercise: practice Value over Effort first
A simplified version of the exercise is the “Value over Effort” prioritization. In this case, you only have two columns, Value and Effort. And the resulting priority is similar to WSJF: higher the number, higher the priority. You can practice with this first, and then move on to WSJF.
As a comparison, WSJF accounts for greater details represented by Time Criticality, and by Risk Reduction/Opportunity Enablement.
WSJF in action
Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) is a prioritization technique that generates a numbered priority for each work item in your product backlog. The items with the highest numbers have the highest priorities.
WSJF requires a little bit of practice to be effective. We recommend practicing with the vacation exercise above. We have also crated a worksheet that can guide your prioritization activities when you apply WSJF. You can download the exercise worksheet from below.