The B̶u̶f̶f̶e̶t̶ way to prioritize user stories

Everybody today understands the importance of shipping early but in that process, the team inevitably makes a lot of compromises. What if you did not have make any concessions? What if you still had time to iterate? And what if you still made sure you listened to the user? You could say that is an ideal scenario. Maybe not.


There is a lot of focus today by companies to get a minimum viable product out early. I had written some time back on the framework for user motivation. It works great as a framework for prioritizing the different amount of time we spend upon each part of the product. Ideally one would like to concentrate on getting each aspect of product right. This is ideal product focus which looks something like this:

But today’s market the reality is that you do not have the time to spend on getting all aspects right before you release. The idea is to get a minimum viable product out into the market as soon as possible and then concentrate on getting things right. Though an excellent plan in theory, most MVPs tend to focus on getting the functionality right and not rest of the aspects. An ideal way would be to concentrate on all aspects of the product. Something like what was mentioned in this article. So the actual MVP (which should be called a Minimum Desirable Product) would look something like this:

Image result for mdp navneetnair

Now the question is how does one arrive at this short list of features that make it to the minimum desirable product. This is where Buffet comes in. Recently read an article about the process he uses to prioritize life goals. So here goes the Buffet way to prioritize user stories for a minimum desirable product.

Step 1: Write down 25 user stories that you would want to make it to the product. Keep the stories broad but not too broad. For example, for a product like a word processor, you may want to keep ‘work with documents’ as as story that includes create, delete, open and close rather than have stories based on these individual use cases.

Step 2: Now circle the top 5 stories from this list that you reckon as most important. Get some users involved in this process. Try doing a card sorting exercise where you can get users to do some prioritizing for you. Whatever method you choose you need to come up with the top 5 user stories you would want to concentrate upon.

Now halt. Have you done step 1 & 2 for your set of products. Now come to the next step.

Step 3: Now do the top 5 in the list. Ignore the bottom 20.

When you are iterating. Do all that is possible to keep this 20 out of your iteration cycle. Your initial definition of what the product should do might change but you will end up with a much simpler and focused product. Depending upon how the product is doing get each of the remaining feature in only after you feel there is no way that the product can improve without getting the feature in. Play the devil’s advocate up to the point that the feature wins based on the merit.

Try it out. This worked for Buffet, there should be all reasons for it work for designers and product managers.

[Edit] While the method is quite useful, it has just come to my attention that this was not something that Warren Buffet came up with:



  • When business needs and user needs collide – Navneet Nair Designs

    May 13, 2018 at 3:01 pm

    […] I thought about it, the more it seemed counter to the rules I had alluded to in the article about a prioritizing user requirements. In the article I used about the hierarchy of needs and a smart elimination technique that sounded […]

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *