By Mike Loughrin, CEO of Transformance Advisors

Too Many Ideas

Have you ever been working with an energized team and find you have too many great ideas to wrap your arms around? Maybe you need to trim down a long list of options and quickly prioritize the most viable and valuable options to the top.

This could happen a number of different ways:

  • After a round of brainstorming
  • During a SWOT analysis
  • Recording observations from a focus group
  • Collecting ideas for a cause and effect diagram
  • Assessing issues noted from customer complaints
  • Reviewing action items from a monthly business review
  • Ranking recommendations from an organizational assessment

And there are dozens of other examples.

You name a team-oriented activity, and there is a point during or after where you always seem to get a list of “things” that needs to be put under control.

too many ideas

Many Tools

There are many tools claiming to be the answer:

  • Decision Matrix Analysis
  • Action Priority Matrix
  • Urgent and Important Principle
  • Paired Comparison Analysis
  • Circle of Concern vs. Control
  • Pareto Analysis

These tools, and many others, can work, but all tools I have tried always seem to slow the team down when you need to make a specific decision about classification or priority.

tools for prioritizing work

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deciding what to do

Setting the classification or priority becomes a team decision and opens up endless debate.

For example:

  • Is this item a priority 2 or 3 – and what is priority 3 again?
  • Is this important for a few or for everyone – what do we do about that?
  • We need to control that other department – so let’s say their problem is in our circle of control!
  • Give that a high chance of success – that process has been failing for years, but the times are a changin’
  • Can we do that as a quick fix – it only affects the procedures for 800 people in 17 locations
  • Can we talk some more about this “blockchain” thing – everyone says it can solve all of our issues

You know the drill. It is frustrating for everyone.

There has to be a better way!

Gaining Control

Gaining control requires success at three challenges:

  • Sorting your list from most important to least important
  • Getting everyone to agree on this prioritized list
  • Doing this fast, and on the spot, when creativity is high

For me, one tool has become my favorite for solving these three challenges.

It’s called RightPage and has consistently delivered a sense of accomplishment for teams I have worked with.

A no-charge online version is available from our partners at Six Disciplines. More on that later.

But first, let’s walk through a simple, but very representative, example.

gain control

Your Team Must Decide

ice cream

Think about working on the summer picnic and your team needs to decide something that could turn into a barroom brawl if not managed well.

You must decide on the flavors of ice cream to serve!

Like everything, you have a constraint. The budget allows for the purchase of 4, and only 4, buckets of ice cream.

At this point, a wise executive would tell the team to decide whatever they want. Then, the executive would leave the room and the mayhem would begin.

You need the team to make a decision and you need everyone to support that decision.

An overused word called consensus comes to mind. But forcing consensus is not something you want to do when an important issue like ice cream is involved.

I propose you need everyone on the same page or the RightPage – the page that lists the 4 flavors.

Step 1 – Brainstorm

Let’s get a list of possible flavors.

An effective approach to brainstorming:

  • List the problem statement – “we need to identify 4 flavors of ice cream to serve at the summer picnic
  • Go around the room with each person tossing out 1 flavor they would like considered
  • Keep going round and round until people run out of ideas – say “pass” if you don’t have a new flavor to add
  • As the well runs dry, announce you will close the collection of ideas
  • Going once, going twice, done
  • Discuss the ideas for clarification; combine items that everyone agrees are essentially the same thing

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brainstorming

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brainstorming list

Let’s look at the flavors you collected:

  • Butter Pecan
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
  • Vanilla
  • Strawberry
  • Mint Chocolate Chip
  • Rocky Road
  • Jalapeno Mustard
  • Peanut Butter Cup
  • French Vanilla

The great news for the team and for the facilitator – this was a fast brainstorming session that did not require discussion and debate. Even a somewhat ridiculous flavor from one person does not slow down the process.

Step 2 – Create RightPage Exercise

The next step is to transfer your list into a RightPage template.

The screenshot below shows what is required:

Creating RightPage Exercise

Step 3 – Everyone Votes

It’s now time to vote. Everyone gets 100 points they can spread around as they choose. The more points you put on a flavor, the more value you place on that flavor being chosen for the summer picnic.

As facilitator, you send the link for the voting page to each person on the team.

The screenshot below shows the ballot that everyone will use to allocate their 100 points:

RightPage Voting Exercise

Sample Vote

The screenshot below shows a sample of one person’s allocation of their 100 points:

RightPage Voting Exercise

Step 4 – Discuss Results

After everyone votes, you can immediately click on the “100-Point Result” tab to see the ranking of the flavors.

The screenshot below shows the results from our team of 6 people:

RightPage Voting Results

We see that Vanilla, Strawberry, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and Butter Pecan are the top 4 choices.

Plus, we see that Jalapeno Mustard did not fair well.

The results do not have to be final. The team should discuss the results and ask questions about why people voted a certain way.

A few scenarios often happen:

  • Two very similar items split the vote. The team might decide to eliminate one and allow people to allocate their points to the remaining item
  • A deeper explanation on something that only one person was passionate about could change the minds of others
  • Anyone not voting for the top items may take a second look and see wisdom in how the others placed value on those choices

Optional Step 5 – Vote Again

Run another round of voting if discussion has given people a new perspective.

You can quickly set up a second round that may, or may not, include changes in your categories.

I have often found that this second round of voting produces similar results, but does include improvements that make everyone feel better with the results.

You will sense a level of confidence in the room that says everyone sees what the selections or priorities need to be.

Consensus Achieved

Teamwork

I mentioned earlier about “consensus” being an overused word.

The RightPage tool supports a remarkable approach that creates the environment for a team to actually reach consensus. A few powerful aspects:

  • No wasted time in meaningless debate – you have probably been in meetings with endless discussion on something that nobody cares about!
  • Everyone participates as an equal – each person gets their 100 points at the beginning and becomes engaged in shaping the discussion
  • Differences of opinion are easier to explore – the discussion shifts to learning why someone gave their points to a specific option

Summary

Use RightPage to gain control while meeting the common challenges:

  • Sorting your list from most important to least important
  • Getting everyone to agree on this prioritized list
  • Doing this fast, and on the spot, when creativity is high

This is one problem solving tool you will use over and over.

Prioritization Tools

Want More?

Get registered to begin using RightPage – no-charge from Six Disclipines

Read What is SWOT Analysis?

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