Workshop Exercises: Decide

Stack Ranking

Obligate a group to rank items relative to the others

Illustration of Stack Ranking
Run a Stack Ranking play

Also called: Forced Ranking, Mutual Dissent

Timing: Execution

Run time
10-15 minutes

Group size

Why: Eliminate ambiguity by forcing participants to evaluate and rank items against each other

When: Use to make choices, prioritize resources, or determine the order of actions or initiatives

This workshop exercise is part of the Workshop Patterns printed card deck.

A collection of workshop exercises that will help you ditch dull meetings and facilitate with confidence. It will help you master the design process and have more productive time with your team. The card deck will be ready for purchase in the end of 2023 and is now undergoing rigorous testing.

Reserve your deck!

Instructions for running this play

  1. Prepare an unranked list of items and decide on the criteria for ranking them (business value, impact vs effort over the next year, etc.).
  2. Write down each item on a sticky note and place them on a large surface.

Variation 1: Group discussion Let participants move items around at their will to spark discussions when other participants disagree. There are no two items that are equally as important.

Variation 2: Individual votes Let each participant rank the items by assigning each a number with the most important being #1, the second #2, and so forth. Sum up all votes and discuss. There are no two items that can receive equal weight

Consider splitting the group in two and letting them take turns ranking using the Fishbowl exercise.

Tips to perfect this play

Master and adapt the play to fit your context and needs.


The ideal length of a list to be voted on is about 10 items. This will allow participants to judge items relative to one another without being overwhelmed.


A very important outcome of the exercise, if not the most important, is the discussion the hard task of forcing a ranking will give rise to


No items can be equally important.

Want to learn more?

Receive a hand picked list of the best reads on building products that matter every week. Curated by Anders Toxboe. Published every Tuesday.

No spam! Unsubscribe with a single click at any time.

Ice Breakers

Relieve initial group awkwardness and establish a safe space

Community events
Product Loop

Product Loop provides an opportunity for Product professionals and their peers to exchange ideas and experiences about Product Design, Development and Management, Business Modelling, Metrics, User Experience and all the other things that get us excited.

Join our community

Made with in Copenhagen, Denmark

Want to learn more about about good product development, then browse our product playbooks.