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Tomas Rybing on Priority Pyramid

Tomas Rybing, Director, Project Management at Aptilo Networks, proposed a prioritization technique called ‘Priority Pyramid’, in agile environment. He described the concept of Priority Pyramid in his recent blog.

Priority Pyramid gives hard boundaries that truly highlight the priority. Given the size of your pyramid and the stickies that you are using, there is a physical limit how many that can fit inside. Priority Pyramid can be used as a visualized backlog.

Priority Pyramid is based on Priority Filter, invented and written about by Corey Ladas, creator and author of the Scrumban process framework. He defines this technique as:

Drawn a task planning board with five columns. The columns are labeled backlog, priority 3, priority 2, priority 1, and done. The three priority columns contain work item tickets, and each column has a work-in-process limit. The limit decreases by priority. We define priority according to situational capacity and availability, rather than by some absolute product criteria.

Priority definitions are:

  • Priority 1: An item which we are currently working on or intend to work on immediately, strictly limited by our current available capacity.
  • Priority 2: An item which we should work on as soon as possible, but for which we do not have immediate capacity.
  • Priority 3: An item which we should work on soon, but is not immediately pressing.

Priority Pyramid is the more visual form of Priority Filter.

The Priority Pyramid is divided into the following sections:

  • Priority One (P1) – At the top of the pyramid, with the highest priority. This is for ongoing tasks.
  • Priority Two (P2) – In the middle of the pyramid. This is for tasks that will be started as soon as resources become available.
  • Priority Three (P3) – At the bottom of the pyramid. This is for tasks that will be worked on soon.
  • Rest of backlog – Below the pyramid the rest of the backlog is written. At this stage the tasks can be written directly on the whiteboard, or be lines on a printed list.

Priority Pyramid represents the WIP-limits (Work-in-Process limitations). Basically, it is a limitation for how many tasks that can be present in the section at the same time. Looking at the example above, it’s the figures within parentheses (i.e., 1, 2 & 4). Use an increasing sequence n x 2 for each underlying section of the pyramid. Tasks flow from bottom of Priority Pyramid to upwards. On completion task is moved to a “Done”-area outside of the pyramid.

Tomas said that Priority Pyramid helps in not taking any premature decisions about priority and which task is to be picked next is decided on the completion of previous high priority task.

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