How to Prioritize New Features As A Team

Adding a feature to a successful product always seems like a good idea at the time: maybe a major customer requested a “simple” tweak, or a competitor launched a new feature that your product could easily incorporate. Over time, though, this leads to product bloat. Your team’s limited resources mean you’ll have to focus your efforts, so during your next meeting to discuss product improvements, try this exercise to prioritize which ideas you’ll move forward with.

Feature Prioritization Exercise

  1. Get specific. Create a card or sheet of paper for each feature that currently exists, as well as those the team has expressed interest in adding.
  2. Assign. Randomly sort the features into the following categories:
    • Kill: Remove immediately.
    • Sunset: Phase out gradually.
    • Optimize: Make minor improvements.
    • Evolve: Re-imagine.
    • Create: Explore something entirely new.
  3. Form a Conga Line. Have all your team members line up around the table. The first person in line has 60 seconds to sort the features into the different categories as they see fit, then the following person takes a turn. Everyone should have three turns before you pause the exercise.
  4. Observe. While the team is busy sorting and re-categorizing, many features will reach consensus in regards to the appropriate category. However, keep an eye out for features that are frequently moved between categories.
  5. Discuss and debate. Once a general consensus on most features has been reached, move the most argued features into a separate “Govern” category, and as a team, debate the appropriate category and implications.

Takeaway: It’s not easy to decide to remove features, especially as team members may feel compelled to defend features that they developed, but streamlining the product will make its benefits clearer to the customer, as well as easier for the organization’s internal teams to support.

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