You are coaching John, a Product Owner, in prioritization techniques. The team predominantly works on small enhancements alongside a few major functional epics. Small enhancement features are grouped into a couple of Maintenance epics in the tool. Road-map has been prepared by the program team sharing all the epics to be completed in the next release. Epics have been decomposed into features by the program team. Delivery team operates on an 8-week release comprising 4 iterations.
You have taught John the WSJF technique for prioritization and you have also stressed the importance of aligning the release plan with product road-map. John has extracted all the features for the release into an Excel sheet – some related to minor enhancements and some related to the functional epics.
When looking at this list of features in Excel, John is confused about ordering them. He comes to you with a question: 1. Should the features inherit the priority of the Epic or should he do WSJF prioritization of all the features independently and order them?
What would be your guidance as a coach?
My guidance to teams has always been this: WSJF score is an input to prioritization and it is not a rule to be followed blindly. WSJF technique helps you to prioritize unrelated items for faster value realization. When you have a functional epic that has been prioritized at a level, features within that epic should inherit the epic’s priority. When you have a list of features that are unrelated enhancements, order based on WSJF score across all these features irrespective of which category of epic they belong to. Basically for epics that are simply ways of categorizing a set of enhancements, related features will not inherit the Epic’s WSJF score.
I am sure there would be nuances to this guidance in practice. Product Owner are always in the best position to apply their judgement.