So Many Ideas – Where Do I Begin?

When working on a Performance Improvement (PI) project, undertaking renovations in your area, or prioritizing your workload, you may find yourself with many different ideas or action items, but aren’t sure how to tackle them. You may ask yourself: which changes should I work on first? Should I implement all of the ideas I’ve come up with, or only some of them?


Impact vs Effort Matrix

An Impact vs Effort Matrix can help you! The Impact-Effort matrix is a decision-making tool that helps to categorize and rank ideas and action items, and is often used in the “Improve Phase” phase of DMAIC to help prioritize potential solutions to a problem. However, its simplicity and versatility mean that you can use it as a decision-making tool in many situations!


To create an Impact-Effort matrix, first draw two intersecting axes on a large piece of paper or dry erase board and label them: effort (on the horizontal or x-axis), and impact (on the vertical or y-axis). The axis scales can be qualitative (ex. low, medium, high) or quantitative (ex. scale of 1 to 10), depending on how precisely you need to rank your items. You can also customize the axes to fit your particular needs - for example, money may be your main concern when ranking, so you could change the “effort” axis to “cost.”


Next, write down each individual idea or action item on its own sticky note. Then, have the team vote on where to place the sticky note so that the location corresponds to the effort it would take to implement the item, and the impact that its implementation would have. As shown to the right, this will yield four quadrants that your ideas or action items will land in:


1. Quick wins: Give the best return on the effort you put in; also called “Just Do It” items.

2. Major projects: Provide long-term returns, but may be more complex to execute.

3. “Fill-in” jobs: Can be done as time allows - don’t require much effort, but also don’t offer many benefits.

4. Thankless tasks: Time-consuming activities with low impact, which should be avoided.


The next time you find yourself with more ideas than time, let this handy tool help you out!

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