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Getting from theory to practice with Cost of Delay and WSJF in SAFe

Recently, I’ve noticed a number of threads on the SAFe linked-in groups indicating people are struggling to get started with the SAFe “Weighted Shortest Job First” (WSJF) prioritisation model.

When I first heard +Dean Leffingwell teach the model I thought “wow, this fantastic.” His use of a proxy model for Cost of Delay (CoD) seemed inspired. +Don Reinertsen had provided compelling arguments for the power of fully quantified CoD. On the other hand, all too many people abandon all attempts to have a value discussion because it’s “just too hard to quantify”. The 3-part proxy in SAFe seemed simple enough to enable people to begin.

The problem, I learned, was one often encountered in people digesting Don’s principles of product development flow. It sounds like fantastic theory but the complexity makes it challenging to find a starting point. My first breakthrough came in early 2013. I was teaching a public Leading SAFe class, and had 5 people from one company on the same table. While most people tackle the WSJF exercise as individuals, this group had a shared list of features and attacked it as a group exercise. They made up planning poker cards from post-its and started voting. As I listened to the conversation, I got inspired. Not only did I hear a great discussion, but I could hear what they had misunderstood from the theory. Continue reading…

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