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A "Qualitative" Formula for WSJF?

In this series of blogs we have been examining the use of Cost of Delay as a way of understanding ordering work - either from a quantitative approach using estimates for value, urgency, duration and/or size, or from a qualitative approach, such as the use of Delay Cost Profiles [1], Risk Profiles [2,3] or Value Size matrices [4]. The SAFe definition of WSJF is something of a hybrid, since it uses a formula, but a formula that has only "qualitative" value at best. Here is their definition [5]:



The 4 terms are determined by Planning Poker estimation using a Fibonacci scale (usually 1 to 20). The work items are ordered according to the formula following an estimation workshop. While this formula cannot provide a true quantitative analysis for ordering items to maximise value, some consultants using it have said that is a useful technique for the discussion it engenders among stakeholders. Once the numbers have been generated the items ordered, re-ordering to a better order is s…