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The Friendly Feud Game: The secret to making better product decisions

The Friendly Feud Game: The secret to making better product decisions

How I effectively surface diverse opinions to aid better decisions with my team at Uber.
Product strategy is often not about what to do, but what
not
to do. Product leaders across companies have codified this principle as the belief that
if everything is a priority, nothing is a priority
.

Yet nailing a small set of priorities is one of the most elusive steps in product planning. Unlike the first phase of planning, which usually involves inclusive, fun brainstorms on what is possible, the final phase involves the much less fun and rarely inclusive step of deprioritizing most of the exciting new ideas to drive focus on fewer things done well.

I used to dread discussions on priorities as they tend to be unwieldy:
Participants rarely have depth across all potential priorities making it difficult to discuss trade-offs.
Educating participants on all potential priorities is highly inefficient. Documenting each potential priority is very labor-intensive and the write-ups, created ahead of the discussion, rarely address the most pertinent concerns.
The meetings tend to drift towards the most exciting or well-understood priorities, rather than focusing on the most consequential trade-offs.
The discussion is often dominated by the most extroverted, not the most knowledgeable, participants.

The most common solution to limit the unwieldiness is to limit participation; with fewer participants, there are fewer opportunities to go off the rails. But at Uber, I was introduced to a much better approach—
The Friendly Feud Game
—which allows for focused prioritization discussions even in very large forums. Its a high energy, fun, and much more inclusive approach.

We have successfully played Friendly Feud with more than 25 participants at Uber and play it for anything that requires a cut line in a stack rank: Priorities, detailed initiatives, KPI’s, etc.

Get your copy of the game

Friendly Feud: Effectively mitigating information asymmetry

The Friendly Feud game efficiently surfaces information asymmetry and directs discussion to the most consequential points of disagreement. And as an added bonus, it’s easy to play.

Given a list of potential priorities, assemble your leadership team in a (virtual) room and have them score every potential priority on a 1 - 10 scale. The scale is subjective to each individual: 1 is the worst possible idea, 10 is the best possible idea. Participants can use as many points as they would like, and they are free to add additional priorities they feel are missing.

Here’s an example of a participant scoring each initiative. Go ahead, give it a shot! Move the sliders to score on initiatives. 👇

Player
Initiative
Score (slider)
1
LT
Lola Tseudonym
Self-driving stroller
00
5
2
LT
Lola Tseudonym
Driver crypto tokens
00
9
3
LT
Lola Tseudonym
Autonomous toothbrushes
00
2
4
LT
Lola Tseudonym
Lawn Care as a Service
00
8
5
LT
Lola Tseudonym
Mobile app redesign
00
8
No results from filter


As scoring begins, a shared screen will display the
of every priority and score as it evolves over time. The matrix is sorted with the highest scoring priority on top and lowest on the bottom. Everyone can see what everyone else is scoring and questions & clarifications are encouraged. Inevitably some proposed initiatives will require clarification, the facilitator should call out someone who scored the initiative ‘10’ to briefly explain what the initiative covers

The exercise solves for simplicity of play. Leads do not have to be calibrated on what constitutes a 1 and what constitutes a 10, are allowed to allocate different subtotal of points, and participation can be very wide and open. The resulting stack rank therefore
cannot
be used as a voting mechanism for making decisions; it is a mechanism for efficiently creating a rough stack rank that can be used to facilitate a productive discussion.

LT
BD
PR
FM
AD
Self-driving stroller
5
10
9
1
6
Mobile app redesign
8
10
9
8
7
Driver crypto tokens
9
1
1
7
10
Autonomous toothbrushes
2
3
1
2
1
Lawn Care as a Service
8
10
2
1
6

The shared scorecard


After a while, the scores will settle, and usually three distinct segments will appear:

1. Broad support initiatives:
All or most leads scores priority 8+.
image.png

2. Conflicted initiatives:
Some leads scores 8+ AND some leads have scored 3 or less.
image.png

3. Low priority initiatives:
All or most leads have scored 3 or less.
image.png

The key to unlocking productive discussion is for the facilitator to start in the middle segment.
The matrix lays out very clearly who is strongly for and strongly against a given priority, so the facilitator can drive a very focused, constructive disagreement with the two parties that disagree, starting from the top of the “conflicted” segment.

Priorities that have broad support, previously the focus of most of our discussions, can be ignored for the purposes of information asymmetry, as can priorities that have little to no support (its not uncommon that a few proposed priorities have 1 and 2s only across all leads).

Instead, we can focus on the most intense points of conflict, and who is disagreeing. Often, it’s one or two people on the opposite ends of the spectrum, with very different underlying information and beliefs. Facilitating these types of discussions can produce the most productive outcomes. And because it’s a game, we encourage conflict in a playful, safe way. Comments and changing answers are encouraged.


Playing the game

The purpose of Friendly Feud is to make sure everyone feels heard while arming the decision-maker with information and views on points of conflict. I’ve built this doc to do both. Here’s what you can expect from the following pages:

: Where the game is played.
: New to the game? Here are some brief instructions.
: Ready to play? Join the game from this page.
: A table that shows everyone's scores for each initiative.
: A table that includes every initiative discussed.
: A table to keep track of discussion participants and their scores.


Get your copy of the game

Frequently Asked Questions

Since implementing this game, I’ve fielded a some specific, and helpful, questions. Here are the highlights:

How much time should we allocate for this game?
Can it be played virtually?
Who should participate?
Why would we not have participants allocate the same amount of points (don’t participants need to have a shared understanding of what is a 10 and what is a 1)?
What if an initiative is missing?
What if a participant does not know what a proposed initiative would cover?
What if an initiative covers several components?
What should I be focused on as a facilitator?
Can the facilitator and final decision maker be the same person?
Can the facilitator vote / can the decision-maker vote?

A special thanks to everyone who took the time to review this doc and added their feedback: Rohan Rajiv, Sanjeev Kapur, and Eckart Walther.

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