End Squeaky Wheel Syndrome by Prioritizing Process

Squeaky wheel


Many people decide what to build next using the “squeaky wheel” prioritization method, where the person screaming the loudest gets their way. It’s easy to do–you’ve got a dozen emails with two dozen ideas in them from stakeholders and more requests being flung at you with every meeting. Meanwhile, your user research has led to a whole pile of important updates that your team really wants. But you can’t magically get everything done right away.

This session will not tell you the one true way to prioritize what you do next. Instead, we will focus on the basic principles of prioritization: customer needs, business outcomes, and available resources. Through some interactive exercises, we’ll look at a few of the most popular prioritization frameworks and examples of how they’re used in companies around the globe. You’ll be invited to combine your favorite elements from each of them to create a model that works for your team. This will form the foundation for your prioritization process.

With a prioritization process in hand, the final thing we’ll do is begin developing a strategy to get stakeholders aligned. We’ll have a group discussion about how others have succeeded in convincing their organizations to rally behind one technique and manage conflict. Learn how to calm down the prioritization chaos and move to a repeatable, agile process for deciding what to build next.

Learning Outcomes

  • What factors should go into a prioritization framework
  • What a few of the most popular frameworks are
  • How to choose a prioritization method that works for you
  • How to gain buy-in for your prioritization strategy

Additional Details

About the presentation

One of the major lessons of this session will be that what works for one team will not automatically work for another. Instead, the goal is to lead attendees on a journey where they can reflect on what sort of systems they need to put in place and run an analysis of their own processes.


  • Opening (10 min): Why I had to get a prioritization process in place on my own team. I share how competing needs, a lack of focused work, and team conflict ultimately hurt our velocity.
  • The pillars of prioritization (10 min): Customer needs, business outcomes, available resources. Why these are the defining factors in any prioritization system.
  • Prioritization Assessment (10 min): Which pillars most often define your decisions? Are your decisions and processes working well for you? Are your decisions aligned with your company values?
    • There will be a quiz on the presentation slides for this section. Attendees will score themselves to target their strengths and weaknesses.
  • A few popular prioritization frameworks (15 min): I’ll talk about a few different prioritization frameworks and what sorts of places generally gravitate towards one or another. Most likely will include RICE, Kano, and desirability/feasibility/viability. The examples themselves will be drawn from my own experience and other product management teams at real companies.
  • Building your prioritization framework (10 min): The audience will have a few minutes to discuss amongst themselves which framework they want to use as a base and what the changes are that they’ll need to make to it to fit their needs.
    • Handouts will be provided that help them think about what the key differences are between each prioritization method, as well as how they should track and measure their method–does it need a separate spreadsheet, should it be part of the ticket tracking system, etc.
  • Gaining support (15 min): Key strategies to make sure that you can gain support for your prioritization framework, including building transparency around it, inviting stakeholders into the conversation, and aligning incentives.
    • This section will be done as a group discussion, with different attendees sharing their own experiences with the whole room.

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