Thursday, 4 June 2015

Idea Prioritisation - Now, later, or never?

We often find, following one of our events or workshops, teams are enthusiastic to get on and implement all the improvements identified. This is great, however we are often cautious not to put too much on the team all in one go, this is where idea prioritisation comes in handy. Prioritising improvement ideas and tasks can help to ensure they are completed fully and accepted by other interested parties and stakeholders. Trying to do too much all at once can leave people and resources overwhelmed resulting in very little being completed.

There are often many different factors that mean a group needs to prioritise tasks and improvements. These may include:
  • Time - either not enough time within the group to implement all the changes and improvements all at once or constraints imposed by the yearly cycle of the workplace e.g September registration at The University
  • Resources - some improvements may have a financial cost associated with their implementation and the group needs to prioritise where the available money will be most effectively spent
  • Acceptability - Some ideas and suggested improvements may need greater buy-in from other team members and/or management. Prioritising these ideas, rather than steaming ahead with them all in one go can make changes less uncomfortable

Prioritisation can also be useful in achieving a consensus of a group as you will often find that different people associate importance to different tasks, gaining a consensus as a group can help to ensure buy-in from all involved with implementation.

It is also often important to get agreement to proceed with implementation by others outside of the immediate group, such as management and other stakeholders. Having a clear, concise and well thought out prioritisation process will help you communicate the reasons behind your decision to proceed with certain tasks first more clearly and robustly.

There are numerous different techniques that you can use to help you prioritise the ideas and tasks you or your group are going to take forward.

10 - 4 Voting
As a group, everyone votes on the ideas or tasks they would like to take forward. Each person has ten votes (we use counters to represent these) and all the ideas are written down and placed within reach of the everyone.
  1. Everyone uses their first four votes, placing them on the ideas of their choice. It is up to them how they spend their first four votes e.g all four on one or one vote on four different ideas etc
  2. Take away the ideas with the lowest number of votes and discuss why the group did not choose them.
  3. Repeat the process with another four votes and then again with the final two.
At the end of the exercise you should be left with one or two ideas that had the greatest number of votes to take forward. This technique is particularly useful when the team largely has control over what to take forward. If management buy in is also needed it may be useful to carry out the next technique first.
This technique is particularly useful in encouraging the group to look objectively at each idea and score it according to whether it is:
Value - are there any tangible benefits
Suitable - Consistent with current strategy and situation
Acceptable - Will it be supported
Feasible - Sufficient resources and time
Enduring - Is it a quick fix or will it last
It can also be a very effective way of communicating to managers and stakeholders why you have made the decisions you have.

MoSCoW stands for Must, Should, Could, Won’t. It is an excellent technique for generating a shared understanding with stakeholders and customers of the importance they place on each deliverable/solution. This technique allows customers or stakeholders to prioritise deliverables according to those that will deliver the greatest benefits. And is most often used when the deadline for delivery is fixed.

There are numerous other techniques you can use to find the one that suits you and your team.


  • Decisions should be supported by facts and data wherever possible. If you do not immediately have this to hand Prioritisation can be a good technique to focus what data you need to collect and understand first.
  • Priorities do change and what appeared easy and useful at the beginning may be a lot more difficult to implement further down the line. Be prepared to go back and re-evaluate.
  • By a couple of changes and ideas at first will hopefully give the team more time later on to revisit and implement the other ideas

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