Jeff Dwyer

Recent Posts

But what IS the Minimum Lovable Product?

Posted by Jeff Dwyer

Mar 30, 2014 5:42:00 PM


You've probably seen this adorable image already and if it won't convince you, nothing will. So we'll start from an assumption that you're trying to make something lovable. But what does that really mean? I'm trying to release a large new feature for my product. I want to get it into beta as quickly as possible. Do I ship what we have? Does it need "just-one-more-thing?" 4 more things? 10? There are 18 important features I can think of off the top of my head that it doesn't have. Which ones do we build before Beta? What is the minimum lovable product?

Oh and I'm on a team with 5 other extremely talented and opinionated people who've sat in on the same user tests of the Alpha as well. They probably have some opinions too... So what do we do? And how do we avoid a 3 hour planning meeting?

Here's how to decide what features to build:

  1. Get all the options on the table. 
  2. Have everyone think hard about the problem by themselves.
  3. Have everyone propose a prioritized plan of action. We need everyone to wrestle with the trade-offs and put a stick in the ground, because it's only by wrestling with these choices ourselves and seeing that there's no one right answer that we will be able to accept a final plan that we may not entirely agree with.
  4. Compare the results. Analyze outlier opinions. Look for agreement.
  5. Put together a plan. (Together if possible, or just have Directly Responsible Individual do it)

Let's see what this process looks like if we use ForceRank to coordinate. First we'll build a questions and define a list of choices. In this case it's all the possible features we could build. We also add a "Release Beta" choice and tell people to prioritize it at the point where they think we should release.



Then we just send an email to our colleague and they can jump right in and start ranking the choices.


Success! Now we have responses from my 5 colleagues. You can see the overall preferences of the group on the right. The results are colored so that we can easily see outliers. It looks like Mike and I generally agree. But you can see that when I hover over the second choice on Mike's list I actually ranked it much much lower. Sounds like we should discuss that one.



Mike and I generally agreed, but if we compare my opinions to Chase's we can see that there are some real differences. Indeed the groups 17th priority was something Chase thought should be #4! Since Chase is the UX expert, it sounds like perhaps the engineers need to understand why we're rating those things on the bottom.


Finally we can also compare everyone's results against the overall scores as calculated by our algorithm.


I hope this has given you a good idea for how to systematize the discussions you have around feature development for your product. The goal is to have smarter, better, faster discussions. Using a system like this you'll find you don't even need to discuss some options because they're either unanimously important or unimportant. On the flip side, the major disconnects in your group will, quite literally, glow red and allow you to focus in directly on what matters.

Try ForceRank Free

Happy Product Releasing to You!



Topics: Decision Analysis, Product Design

Counting Votes Is Hard

Posted by Jeff Dwyer

Feb 9, 2014 1:22:00 PM

It all started one day when we tried to count the votes.

So you know how works right? Your group ranks all the choices, then we add up how many points each choice gets and boom, we show which choice is the most popular.


Well, it turns out that this is one of those cases where "the obvious way" can produce very unintuitive (and hence arguably "wrong") results.

How is that possible?

Let's see an example. This is a poll that one of our users created to figure out what topic should be the subject of his tech talk. Give it a quick look and you'll see that three out of four people had the same first choice. So picking a winner should be easy right?


But that's not what happened. 

The first version of our algorithm picked "Mapreduce and KIR" as the winner. How is that possible you ask? Well, let's do the math together and add up how many points each option should get. I'll highlight just those options below.


So with 9 options each, "Mapreduce and KIR" gets: 9 points from Matt, 7 from Jessica, 8 from James and 6 from Greg, totalling 30.

And Newbie HBase gets: 1 from Matt, 9 from Jessica, 9 from James and 9 from Greg, totalling 28.


We dubbed this the "Matt Ball" effect, but the more canonical description is that our algorithm has failed the "Majority Criterion", which states: "if one candidate is preferred by a majority (more than 50%) of voters, then that candidate must win".

So what did we do?

Well, we went to the wikipedia and dug into Voting Systems. Unsurprisingly it turns out that there's been a lot of high quality thinking on this subject. We looked into a number of methods and the one that seems like it is the best fit for ForceRank was Schulze Method. In a nutshell, Schulze breaks down the voting into a ton of mini ranking between each combination of options, what they call a "pairwise-analysis". Next it does a neat bit of graph magic to pull out a series of winners.

The result, is that it is guaranteed to ace the "Majority Criterion" (which our previous method failed) and a number of other conditions as well.

The only real downside is that Schulze method is a bit more difficult to explain, but at the end of the day it delivers an answer that feels much more intuitively like the "fair" winner of a vote.


Next Up?

Next on our list is building in ways to see the patterns in your group's rankings. There's a lot of really interesting information to be gleaned from the data that ForceRank provides and it's our goal to help you get a quick and easy to comprehend understanding of the complex nature of your groups preferences, and the outliers within.

Try ForceRank


Topics: Tech, Decision Analysis

How to run a "Kickoff 2014 Meeting"

Posted by Jeff Dwyer

Jan 5, 2014 10:06:00 AM

It's a new year. 2013 is taking a breather off the dance floor and 2014 is raring to go.


Your whole team is back from the holiday season and actually itching to get something done. The next few weeks are probably the most refreshed and open-minded you'll see your co-workers all year! So how should we capitalize on this? A big "2014 Kickoff meeting" right?

Unfortunately, this isn't as easy as it sounds. Since everyone was on break that means they all were thinking on their own. It's likely that everybody has their own train of thought for what you should be doing this year. Which should be great right? Right??

A Real World "Kickoff" meeting

The default plan looks something like this:
  1. The manager schedules a "kickoff meeting".
  2. Everyone spends a bit of time putting together their thoughts on what THEY think is the best plan for 2014.
  3. Everyone gets in a room. The manager lays out their plan for 2014 which they're really excited about.
  4. A powerful personality doesn't listen to that and instead lays out THEIR plan for 2014.
  5. Small scale chaos. Everyone tries to steer the conversation towards THEIR plan.
  6. Introverts and quiet people decide this is hopeless and start checking their email.
  7. The manager tries to get back to his or her plan, frustrated that this was a waste of time.
  8. The excitement of a fresh start to 2014 turns into the glum defeatism of "same old same old".

Here's a better plan.

This meeting needs to be split up into discrete chunks. Football teams don't design new plays while they're in the huddle. The meeting described above was trying to do too many things at once. The manager thought he or she would be getting feedback on their plan. But everyone else wanted needed a time to share their thoughts. So really, the meeting became a wrestling match over what the agenda should be. And there's nothing worse than deciding the meeting agenda during the meeting.

Perhaps you're thinking "but an agenda was sent out beforehand!" The problem with that is that you've really got 10 agendas, one for every person in the room. That's not a criticism, it's great that employees have agendas. It means that they want to do something. The problems is that, particularly in your 2014 kickoff meeting, everyone is particularly invested in telling the group about their plan... so invested that they're not going to collaborate well.

So what are the discrete chunks for a good meeting?

  1. Get all the ideas out there.  This can just be a Google spreadsheet, really quick and dirty.
  2. Do some voting or ranking to figure out what people think is important. 
    Again, some quick and dirty Google spreadsheet work should work here. (Of course ForceRank is a good choice too)
  3. Tally up the votes and send out an agenda based on the rankings. It's important to give people some time to come to grips with the fact that their idea wasn't voted #1.
  4. Now have your meeting and discuss the ideas in that order. Stick to the order the group voted on even if you don't agree.

Why does this work?

There's an enormous difference between sitting in a meeting, waiting to get your idea heard, and sitting in a meeting knowing that you put your idea out there, people didn't rank it highly, and this it's not going to be talked about. In the first instance, you really can't contribute to the discussion because your agenda hasn't been completed. In the latter, you've gotten feedback on your idea and it's clear you'll need to talk to other people 1 on 1 to see why they didn't vote it higher. This is a much more productive place to be.

So do we need to execute on the #1 agenda item?

NO! Ranking and voting is a way to understand the group. It's NOT a way to make a decision. If you're in charge and your whole group votes something highly that you know is not going to be a good decision, THAT'S A GOOD THING. It means that you have a serious communication gap and now is the time to address it. The only alternative is to just plow ahead telling everyone that project B is the most important when they all think project A is more important. And I'm sure you don't want that.

Happy 2014 Everyone!

Plan a 2014 Kickoff Meeting


Decision Making Software Tool Review for 2014

Posted by Jeff Dwyer

Dec 6, 2013 10:50:00 AM



As we get ready for 2014 it's time for a quick review of the Decision Making & Decision Support tools available to us. I found 6 tools, each of which competes for a different segment of the decision making software space. Let's check them out:


Screen_Shot_2013-12-01_at_6.41.07_PM MakeItRational

First off is MakeItRational ( I'm going to give them plus 3 points for simply having a great company name.

If you are making some serious decisions MakeItRational has a lot going for it. It is a robust solution with the basics delivered in a solid, if somewhat dated interface.

The tutorial slides are easy to find on their site and give a good overview of what capabilities the software has. Radar charts, pairwise comparison, hierarchical criteria weighting is all included.

I particular approve of their pairwise comparison interface. This was a standout in the products I used for its clarity.

Kudos to them for having a clear pricing page. I find hiding the pricing behind a "Call for a quote" to be a really 90's mentality in software. 




TransparentChoice ( is a simpler product which seems like it's still getting its sea legs. 

Overall the design is very nice, and it takes a friendly "hand-holding" approach to filling in the required information. When this falls down however it can be quite confusing. I found myself fumbling between red alerts quite a bit.

The most interesting feature is a real-time "consistency check" which helps verify your pairwise comparisons. 

As far as I can tell, there is no paid version of the product yet, so it looks like it's in the development stages. Once the kinks are worked out, this could be an interesting, lightweight alternative to some of the larger more expensive tools.



Screen_Shot_2013-12-01_at_6.50.15_PM Decision Buddy

Decision Buddy ( is another really lightweight tool. So light it's only currently available for  iPhone and Android mobile devices. 

That said, at this time it looked too simple to be particularly useful for business. All users need to be on the same phone and the is no reporting or analysis to speak of. It is free if you want to do a pairwise analysis of where to get pizza though!


Screen_Shot_2013-12-01_at_6.51.49_PM SuperDecisions

SuperDecisions ( is a relic from another age. I'll save you the trouble of downloading this monolith of a 40MB application. To its credit it does have some very advanced functionality, but unless you're sure you need it I would start with an easier tool.



Screen_Shot_2013-12-01_at_6.54.11_PM D-Sight

D-Sight ( seems to be the 500lb gorilla in this space.  It
has Web & Desktop versions and seems really full featured.

The demo is the slickest of all the products listed here and the free trial pre-populates sample data for you which makes understanding this software's capabilities a breeze.

I was also very impressed by the "Live Chat" help. That's a great feature and a real commitment to making you successful with the tool.

Interface wise, the web version is serviceable and clear. Some things do require more clicks than they should, but overall the flow is clear. There were interfaces for uploading csv's, which is a nice touch for alternative workflows.

Report wise, D-Sight was easily the leader of the products reviewed. High quality interactive graphs make drilling into date easily. The stability analysis reports are just over the top. If you need it, this is some very full featured software.

Overall I'm pretty sure no one ever got fired for choosing D-Sight :)







ForceRank ( takes a different approach than most of these decision support tools. For the decision nerds out there, It is based on Nominal Group Technique instead of Analytics Hierarchy Process. The essential difference between the two is that AHP allows each 'alternative' to be evaluated on a number of different criteria (and each criteria can then be weighted in importance) whereas NGT is a much simpler technique that focuses on ranking alternatives directly against each other.

I'll leave off the analysis portion of this review because, as you may have guessed, this writer is not exactly impartial when it comes to the utility of ForceRank for decision making. Suffice to say that as we enter 2014 there are a number of good options for helping your team make better decisions. To read more about read Introducing ForceRank.

Happy Decisions!



Help my group make a decision


Interview on Decision Making and Leadership with Jess Petersen, VP Product at Hopper

Posted by Jeff Dwyer

Dec 3, 2013 2:45:00 AM

Twitter: @jess_mcisaac
Bio:  Currently VP Product at Hopper, trying mightily to build the world's coolest travel app. Prior to that, spent 6 life-changing years building Carbonite from a scrappy startup into a public company after 4 forgettable years in consulting. Computer Science undergrad at Dartmouth College. Crazy marathon runner. Yogini. Occasional road biker. Singer. Vegetarian foodie. Native Cape Coddah.


If you ranked the companies priorities in order and your reports ranked theirs, how closely do you think they would they match?

Probably not perfectly, but pretty darn close. We're a small team, so we synch up regularly via daily standups, weekly team meetings where we discuss our priorities and weekly demos where we show off and celebrate the progress of the week. People have lots of opportunities to ask questions and make suggestions. When everyone understands the weekly goals as well as the higher-level company goals, it's easier for employees at all levels to make good decisions day-to-day about where to spend their time.


How do you pick what project to do next? Do you use any formal methodology?

We don't use a formal methodology to prioritize projects; prioritization is an outcome of constantly monitoring our operational data and having frequent conversations with the CEO and CTO about what we're trying to learn or accomplish. Admittedly, this works pretty well in a startup our size but gets more difficult as the number of people involved increases.

What does the word "consensus" mean to you?

Done well, consensus means that everyone involved in a decision has the same understanding of the overarching goals and therefore reaches a similar conclusion about what needs to be done given the available evidence. Done poorly, consensus means getting people with very different agendas and spotty context to agree on the safest or least-offensive option -- which will almost certainly result in failure.

After you've laid out the vision, how do you know that the troops are behind you?

The nice thing about our culture at Hopper is that our decisions are governed by evidence, so there is transparency into how and why decisions are made. Everyone is encouraged to ask questions and voice concerns, and every suggestion is evaluated based on the validity of the argument for it, not by the rank of the person making it. We are constantly adjusting our trajectory based on data, which can be a little tumultuous, but everyone buys in to the fundamental idea that we will build the best product by objectively testing, measuring and iterating.

There are lots of behavioral types, which ones do you find the most challenging to work with?

Political types and arrogant people are the most difficult to work with. Getting the right stuff done means leaving your ego and your personal agenda at the door and committing yourself to finding the right solution -- whether or not it was your idea -- and really listening to qualitative and quantitative customer feedback -- whether or not you like what it's telling you. Political behavior diverts energy away from solving the right problems and arrogance blinds you to problems that are observable through objective analysis. 

Thanks Jess. I just saw a quote of the day on a whiteboard in my office "There is nothing that cannot be achieved as long as it doesn't matter who gets the credit." I think your aversion to political types is right on. Thanks again for taking the time to give us your thoughts.


Topics: leadership

Interview on Decision Making and Leadership with Kyle Porter, CEO of SalesLoft

Posted by Jeff Dwyer

Dec 3, 2013 2:36:00 AM


 Twitter: @kyleporter


 Bio: Founder of SalesLoft, Lover of smart sales and marketing 





Hi Kyle, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions about decision making and leadership. Let's get started.

How does your team prioritize initiatives?

Focus on the customer first. Stay close to the customer and implement changes that will make the most impact with the least amount of complexity.

If you ranked the companies priorities in order and your reports ranked theirs, how closely do you think they would they match?

Super well. Our culture is aligned by our core values and priority projects which we review weekly and keep track of through our one-page strategic plan and our weekend updates.

How do you pick what project to do next? Do you use any formal methodology?

We take quarterly retreats and prioritize projects based customer needs.

What does the word "consensus" mean to you?

That everyone is comfortable with the direction

After you've laid out the vision, how do you know that the troops are behind you?

When hiring, we focus on positive, supportive, and self-starting individuals.

How do you make sure that introverts get heard?

We send a bi-weekly 5 question form to each member of the team using Google forms and spreadsheets and automate the emails to go out every other Friday using Boomerang.

There are lots of behavioral types, which ones do you find the most challenging to work with?

Negative and lazy. We don't hire people like that.

What do you think of the quote: "Leadership involves finding a parade and getting in front of it."

I prefer: "The role of a leader is to serve"

Were you a leader in elementary school? Or did that come later? Any particular instance come to mind?

I was a leader of troublemakers :)

I love it. Thanks again Kyle! We'll have to do a follow-up on your band of trouble makers soon. "Solve For The Customer" is a great goal. Finally, I think your quote about leadership is spot on. Not easy to do in practice, but spot on.

Check us out on Twitter


Topics: leadership

The Personality Zoo: Meeting Zoology

Posted by Jeff Dwyer

Dec 1, 2013 5:17:00 PM

Extroverts make the world go round. They connect us, push us out of our comfort zones, keep us busy and save us from awkward pauses. But what happens when groups of introverts and extroverts get together to make decisions?

Hi, my name is Jeff and I'm a Meerkat.meerkat

Well, not exactly, but according to this brilliant look at the various Meyer-Briggs personality types I'm a bit of a Meerkat since I'm an INFP.

Full disclosure, at work I actually tend towards the Owl (INTP) & Wolf (INFJ) as well, but one way or another what I'm not is an extrovert. No Lion, Dog, Parrot or Dolphin here.

So what?

The important thing about understanding your personality type is using it to understand the interactions happening around you.

So let's play a little game. Imagine your next big meeting. Now imagine what it would be like if we replace your scintillating coworkers with their appropriate MBTI animal. That's right, put these animals around the table and imagine what would happen.

I'm going to guess you've probably got at least one Lion, pacing back and forth in front of the whiteboard and trying (sometimes unsuccessfully) not to roar. HR has no doubt informed them that roaring came up on their last 360 review.

Your group no doubt has a dog or two. Recognize them? Someone who's extremely excited to hear themselves talk. Interesting in yapping at each other. Perhaps interested in nipping at the heels of the Lion.

Perhaps you have a parrot as well, flying into the room 10 minutes after the start of the meeting and sitting on the top of a chair displaying his glorious plumage.

A dolphin doing tricks in the corner?

Does this sound familiar? Frankly this is starting to sound like a fairly accurate characterization of some of the meetings I've been to.

Then there's the introverts.

And then you have the introvert section, it's almost easy to forget them in all the the bustle of the other animals.

You've got a wolf sitting in the corner seat he always sits in. Not saying anything. Possibly considering eating one of the small dogs.

Your group has all most certainly forgotten your Owl, perched as she is in the corner. You probably won't hear what she thinks about your 2014 until she lets out a deafening screech and flies off.

And what about the Meerkats in your group. Quietly checking in on your process and trying to keep the meeting on track. And the octopus, happily avoiding everyone while hiding under a rock and making plans.

So what do you think the chances are that you're leveraging this zoo of team to their full capacity? Does it seem possible that your extroverts are taking up more than their fair share of airtime? Really, how can you hear anything above the din of those dogs!

The Zoo is not for everyone.

Perhaps there's a better way. If you want to hear what the owl thinks, you're going to have to approach her differently. That octopus? He'd probably prefer to write an email to the group then come out from under his rock.

Before your next meeting, think about how you'd deal with managing this menagerie of animals and see if that colors how you set your team up for success.

Here are a couple things you can try:

  1. Let your quieter individuals read a prepared statement before the meeting starts.

  2. Send around a poll of "what is the most important issue" before the meeting begins so you can be sure to get the group view.

  3. Just sit back and track how many words each of your coworker says in an hour. Present the group with a pie chart of "talk-time" (with no names attached) and suggest that they try the same excercise. 

The introverts will thank you and your meeting will be better.

Help my group make a decision


Topics: meetings, mbti, personalities

Upgrading from Zurb Foundation 4 to Foundation 5

Posted by Jeff Dwyer

Nov 22, 2013 6:31:00 AM

I'm a big Foundation fan, so I was pretty excited to hear that Foundation 5 has been released. I'm most of the way through the upgrade but it certainly wasn't bump free. 

Here's what I've learned:

There's a new gem in town


Application "Bootstrapping" is cleaner


Pluralization is no longer cool


Your TopBar needs a new data attribute


Custom-forms is dead


You MUST Have application JS loaded inside the <body> tag. Not the <head>.

Otherwise I got a very unfriendly error about Layout needing to be a layer from FastClick 

You probably need data-turbolinks-eval => false

Since I had to move the application.js from the head to body it was now loading everytime I changed from page to page via turbolinks. This fixed things. 


Changing your foundation_and_overrides is a PITA

I don't have a real solution for you here. Besides the fact that this was a pita. A lot has changed, such as:

$h1-font-size: rem-calc(44) !default;

Which is now in rem's instead of em's. This broke for me because rem-calc was not defined until I moved @import "foundation/global" to happen earlier.

I general, the difficult thing seems to be determining what constants names have changed.

Overall, things are starting to come together:




Screen_Shot_2013-11-22_at_6.22.25_AM What do you think?

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Topics: Tech

What happens when you don't "Rock the Boat"?

Posted by Jeff Dwyer

Oct 27, 2013 8:35:00 PM


In Jerry Harvey's book The Abilene Paradox and Other Meditations on Management he introduces the following wonderful parable. I think a good subtitle would be "What happens when nobody wants to rock the boat".

On a hot afternoon visiting in Coleman, Texas, the family is comfortably playing dominoes on a porch, until the father-in-law suggests that they take a trip to Abilene [53 miles north] for dinner. The wife says, "Sounds like a great idea." The husband, despite having reservations because the drive is long and hot, thinks that his preferences must be out-of-step with the group and says, "Sounds good to me. I just hope your mother wants to go." The mother-in-law then says, "Of course I want to go. I haven't been to Abilene in a long time."

The drive is hot, dusty, and long. When they arrive at the cafeteria, the food is as bad as the drive. They arrive back home four hours later, exhausted.

One of them dishonestly says, "It was a great trip, wasn't it?" The mother-in-law says that, actually, she would rather have stayed home, but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic. The husband says, "I wasn't delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you." The wife says, "I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that." The father-in-law then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored.

The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip which none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably, but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon.

Recognize this?

Your last meeting probably didn't end up with a long hot drive to a diner in Texas, but is it possible that the decision you ended up making fell prey to this same trap?

Maybe Sally made an off the cuff suggestion and Bob did some polite nodding to that and then Sam fell in line and agreed because it seemed like there was a consensus forming.

And suddenly your "plan" is something that nobody really thinks is a great idea.

Why does this happen?

There are two big reasons that groups fall into this trap.

Meetings are intimidating

Some people love the opportunity to talk, but half of the world is introverts. And even extroverts can have a multitude of reasons not to feel comfortable speaking in a meeting.

Verbal communication isn't everyone's strong suit. Many brilliant and effective employees just hate the spotlight of group communication.

If 85% of our meetings are two loud mouths enjoying some verbal fencing, are we really making the most of our time?

Rocking the boat is tiring

The second reason for the Abilene Paradox is the really difficult one. Humans are social creatures and as much as we want to succeed, at our core we really want to make social connections.

That means that if that nice co-worker who remembered your birthday and brought in a cake suggests an idea you think is subpar, it's very tempting to nod and smile. And once you nod and smile, then the co-worker who thinks you're very clever decides that he must be missing something if you think it's a good idea.

If you want to make the best decisions in a meeting, you have to constantly risk hurting other peoples feelings and no matter who you are, that's difficult and tiring.

And when something is difficult and tiring we avoid doing it.

So how can we avoid going to Abilene?

The good news is there's a way out! It goes like this:

Step 1) Make everyone think for themselves BEFORE the meeting.

Meetings are a horrible time to think. Send out the list of priorities before the meeting when people aren't worried about what everyone else thinks. Let the introverts mull over the question and put together a written response. Don't worry, the extroverts will still get to say their piece.

Step 2) Share results together. Find patterns. Dig deeper.

Use the first part fo your meeting to quickly read the responses. This let's you see what people honestly think before the meeting started. There may be a silent majority that would surprise you. It's entirely possible that you already have a strong consensus (in which case, maybe you don't need that meeting at all!)

Alternatively, perhaps the quiet (and brilliant) individual in the corner thinks you're doing it all wrong? Sounds like that would be worth investigating.


It's easy to get started with these techniques, particularly when you have a large number of options you're weighing. Write them all down and circulatethem before the meeting. Have everyone respond and have one person set up a spreadsheet to compare results.

Alternatively, you can give ForceRank a try:

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What is ForceRank?

ForceRank is a prioritization tool for product managers. It helps people identify priorities, make tradeoffs, compare results and finalize a plan.

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