Frameworks for Prioritization & Decision-Making

Visual matrices and frameworks can be helpful for capturing non-linear groups of things. Look at how successful Trello has been! But it still comes down to knowing enough about what you’re plotting to know where to put it.

Plotting ideas or activities isn’t as straight-forward as it seems. Your own values, concerns and preconceptions play a role. That’s why plotting as a group can dramatically improve decision-making and alignment.

A few of my favorite matrices (wow, I can’t believe I’m writing that down. What a dork) are the How-Now-Wow Matrix and the Eisenhower Box (also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix).

Each of these are a 2x2 matrix, and participants are asked to plot items relative to each other across the visual space.

How-Now-Wow Matrix

The How-Now-Wow Matrix has participants plot ideas along two axis:

  1. Complexity
  2. Novelty

More simple terms could just be ‘risk-vs-reward’ or ‘cost-vs-benefit’.

How-Now-Wow Matrix from Gamestorming

The tension of the two sides of the matrix help groups reach alignment.

A given individual may prefer more novel or less risky projects, and this 2x2 matrix means both perspectives are accounted for.

Dividing the areas into “How” “Now” and “Wow” allows conversations to move forward without invalidating the other perspective.

The other possible outcome from this game is teams learning from each other. With the pace of technology developments, something assumed to be costly and difficult may in fact be straightforward.

The Eisenhower Box

The Eisenhower Box is really more of a personal prioritization tool, but can also be used with groups. The two axes for this matrix are:

  1. Urgent
  2. Important

It’s easy to get caught up in short-term urgency and ignore what is important over the long term. The Eisenhower Box not only has you map where activities fall, it also offers direction on what to do with the items in that bucket.

The “delegate” bucket is an interesting one. Not all of us run countries, so it may seem like this is out of our reach. But think about tools and services. I delegate some of my social media posting to buffer, for example. I know I should post regularly, but picking the exact right moment and posting on that schedule is not the best use of my time.

Portfolio Management

Great, so items are plotted on a matrix; now what?

Turns out this is the most important part: the action to take.

Often a blended portfolio is going to make the most sense. Allocate a percentage of your resources to the various buckets. If something made it on your chart, it likely has some value. Just be careful that the balance is realistic and sustainable.

  • A product team may decide to dedicate some percentage of every sprint to getting rid of technical debt.
  • Although “How” items aren’t immediately actionable, some commitment may be made to keep checking on industry and technology developments.

If something made it on your chart, it likely has some value. Just be careful that the balance is realistic and sustainable.

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