Here is my approach -- which I hereby dub "Ranking Rummy" -- to this problem:
Example/procedure: Consider four stakeholders have identified five "top priority" tasks for a project, but the Project Manager has requested a strict ranking.
- The tasks are labelled and each participant is given (or produces) five corresponding cards to rank independently and secretly -- no discussion.
- When the participants are ready, they all reveal their highest priority card.
- If all are in agreement, we have our consensus highest priority, and can move on to find the next highest.
- Otherwise there will be two or more factions (groups who played the same card). Similar to Planning Poker, the facilitator asks (only) one participant from each faction to explain his or her choice. Then there is re-consideration, and the process is repeated until consensus has been achieved or, say, three rounds have been played. If consensus is not achieved after three rounds, a tie-breaking mechanism is employed: E.g. majority or seniority.
- Repeat for the remaining tasks.
As with Planning Poker, the procedure encourages initial independent ranking, and structured yet informative communication about the tasks under consideration without negotiation and/or intimidation.
Seniority is a useful tie-breaker if your group is following a consultative (but non-democratic) approach. For example, if prioritizing among Time, Scope and Cost, the project sponsor will typically have the final call, but Ranking Rummy would allow him or her and the stakeholders to get an understanding of each others' views and preferences along the way.
- Ranking tasks, users stories, features
- Alternative to value sliders [pdf], where a strict ranking is desired.
Please let me know how you go with Ranking Rummy. Suggestions (and donations) gratefully accepted!