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Weighted Shortest Job First:
Size and prioritize 

Parabol weighted shortest job first estimation technique

Prioritize high value, low effort tasks 

 

Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) sounds like a sizing method based on time, but it’s actually more about value.

Any agile team that’s had to carry over tickets between sprints knows that time alone isn’t the most reliable sizing metric. Sometimes what seems like a quick job turns out to be anything but.

Using WSFJ can help you minimize those issues. Teams measure effort of stories and their value to develop a prioritized list of what to work on next. 

 

How does WSJF work?

 

The Weighted Shortest Job First estimation technique agile's answer to the maxim “measure twice, cut once.”

Your team will make two estimations, one for effort, and another for value. Then you’ll prioritize everything based on the sweet spots of value and effort.

For effort estimation, you’ll use the same principles from the estimated effort method of sizing.

Then you’ll use a similar method immediately after for estimating the value. 

Once you’re done sizing tasks by effort and value, you’ll need to pick those sweet spot tickets.

This is where having value defined beforehand really helps. Maybe you’ve rated effort as an extra-large t-shirt, but the value is small. That’s not the sort of story you want to be prioritizing – so to the bottom of the pile it goes! 

With everything sized for effort and value you can quickly prioritize the diamonds in the rough – items that are low effort, high value. Remember, the definition of value is totally up to you, and it can change between sprints or projects.  

At the end of your agile estimation or planning poker meeting, you’ll wind up with a neat, prioritized list of tasks with the high value, low effort items sitting pretty at the top.

 

Estimation Scales for WSJF 

When estimating with WSJF, your team will use sizing scales – Fibonacci, Five fingers, T-shirt sizing, etc. – to determine how much work each task will take, and determine how much value stories will deliver to the purchaser, user, or other stakeholders.

These values on each scale are commonly referred to as story point values. The story points are purposefully abstract, which means there’s no official standard on what the number 13 represents in the Fibonacci scale.

So be prepared for some discussion as everyone comes to an agreement on effort and value estimates.

The more tasks you size, the easier sizing becomes, as you compare tasks to each other.

If someone throws a t-shirt at you, it might be hard to tell if it's large or small without a tag. But if you’ve got two shirts and you lay them out, you can size them against each other. 

The same approach applies to value. You’ll be using a scale just like you did with effort.

Pro tip: Before you start estimating with value, have a discussion with your team on what value means:

Does value refer to what’s most valuable to the company? What’s most valuable to the team? Maybe you’re sizing features for an app and you want to prioritize things that would be most valuable to your users. Or maybe value literally means the monetary value of shipping a feature, and you want to prioritize things that make the most money.

Agreeing on value upfront is key to estimation accuracy, so make sure you’ve got everyone on the same page. 

Each time you run agile estimation meetings with the same scale, you strengthen that scale for your team. Before long, everyone will have a baseline knowledge of what each point means and you’ll sail through estimations.

 

Using Parabol for WSJF 

Why not try using our Sprint Poker tool to estimate your stories in no-time?

Simply start a meeting, then choose Weighted Shortest Job First and your preferred sizing scales. 

Sprint-Poker-Weighted-Shortest-Job-First-Lobby

 

Our Sprint Poker tool gives you the option to choose two different scales, but we recommend using the same scale for both the effort and value, especially when you’re first getting started.

You can start the meeting with an optional icebreaker and after that you’ll start estimating. Each team member will have two hands of cards, one for effort and one for value. They can easily swipe between the two and vote anonymously on the current task. Once everyone has voted, the facilitator can reveal the votes, and the discussion begins. After the team has agreed on effort and value, you’ll move on to the next task and repeat the process.

After you’ve got everything sized, you can send your stories back into Jira. Parabol gives you full reports on your Sprint Poker meetings, so you can chart your team’s progress, accuracy and impact on value over time.

 

Try it yourself with a free account 

 

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