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Trade-offs

Every project has trade-offs such as cost or scope. Define and prioritize them now to save time later.

Pencil icon
Prep Time
10 mins
Stopwatch icon
Run Time
60 mins
Connected people icon
People
3-5
Progress bar

Trade-offs

Every project has trade-offs such as cost or scope. Define and prioritize them now to save time later.

Progress bar
Pencil
Prep Time
10 mins
Stopwatch icon
Run Time
60 mins
Connected people icon
People
3-5

Trade-offs

Every project has trade-offs such as cost or scope. Define and prioritize them now to save time later.

Pencil icon
Prep Time
10 mins
Stopwatch icon
Run Time
60 mins
Connected people icon
People
3-5
Progress bar

Trade-offs in action

A remote web design team uses Trello to discuss their trade-offs on an upcoming project.

These are sticky notes from a Trade-offs Play being run by an IT team, as they prep for a project.

Business school students use Miro to discuss the trade-offs they’ll make on a group project.

What you'll need

Remote

Video conferencing with screen sharing

Digital collaboration tool (see templates)

In-person

Meeting space

Whiteboard or large sheet of paper

Sticky notes

Markers

Optional templates

Atlassian Templates

Instructions for running this Play

1. Prep 10 MIN

For remote teams, start by creating a collaboration document, like a Trello board. You can use the templates provided, if you’d like, or create one of your own. 

For in-person teams, find a whiteboard or large paper and set out sticky notes and markers in a meeting room.

Create a “trade-offs” column in your document and add any constraints or variables your team needs to consider when working on this project.

Then, add five numbered columns to the board or paper: 1 - most flexible, 2, 3, 4, and 5 - least flexible.

 

TIP: TRIPLE CONSTRAINT

The most common trade-offs are known as the "triple constraint":

  • Time: time allotted
  • Scope: what’s included
  • Cost: project budget

Trello board
EXAMPLE: LIST OF TRADE-OFFS

Here are some trade-offs that a web design team might weigh for an upcoming project.

2. Set the stage 5 MIN

Let the team know the following at the start of the meeting:

  • The goal of this session is to come to an agreement on the project’s priorities so when we need to make trade-offs we’re in agreement on how to make them.
  • Everyone should use their experience on past projects to inform their recommendations.

3. Flex 10 MIN

Ask each team member to add a card or sticky note for each trade-off on a scale from 1 to 5. Cards or notes rated as “1” are the trade-offs with the most flexibility and those rated “5” have the least flexibility. 

A flexible trade-off is negotiable to focus on higher priorities. For example:

No deadline = Time is a 1

Strict budget = Cost is a 5

Make sure team members put their names on their ratings so everyone is aware of how different team members view the trade-offs.

TIP: INTERDEPENDENCIES

Trade-offs have an interdependent relationship. Spending more time and effort on one is often at the expense of another.

4. Discuss 20 MIN

Once everyone has put in their initial ratings, take a look at where the trade-offs are on the scale of 1-5. Discuss any clear themes or commonalities where multiple team members gave a trade-off the same rating.

Then move on to any trade-offs with different ratings. Discuss each team member’s reasoning for the placement.

TIP: INFLEXIBLE

If everything's in the “least flexible” column, ask:

  • Which has the most customer benefit?
  • Which one aligns most with company values?

5. Update 5 MIN

As you discuss trade-offs and reach consensus on their flexibility, move the cards or sticky notes to the appropriate column to reflect the updated trade-offs.

Miro template
EXAMPLE: THE END

Here’s an example of a Trade-Offs session captured on Miro, after the team has reached consensus.


Follow-up

Document

Capture the information from this Play in a file-sharing space, such as a Confluence space, where the team and stakeholders can see and revisit if questions about trade-offs arise.

Revisit

Revisit this Play as needed such as if new information comes up and your priorities need to change. Use this Play periodically to ensure the team is aligned on trade-offs.

Variations

Leadership team

If the ultimate say in trade-offs for the project lies in your leadership team, run the Play with project leaders or business stakeholders rather than the team who is executing the work.

Walk the board

Instead of going person by person, go through your work board item by item. Start with any items that are blocked and discuss how to get them unblocked. Then go through each remaining item to discuss how to complete them.

One at a time

Rather than prioritizing all trade-offs at once, introduce them one at a time and discuss their ranking before moving on to the next.


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Still have questions?

Start a conversation with other Atlassian Team Playbook users, get support, or provide feedback.

Still have questions?

Start a conversation with other Atlassian Team Playbook users, get support, or provide feedback.

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