AJC Playbook: How to Prioritize which Strategic Initiatives will lead your Company to the type of growth you want?

Now that you have a Thematic Goal, you can start considering the Strategic Initiatives which will support the goal. Most companies have limited resources, including time, budget, and people with capacity to make things happen, and therefore need to prioritize and focus on the most value-add or important items to realize in any given period.

There are as many different methodologies to determine how you will make decisions as decisions to sift through! At AJC, we recommend using an objective tool that is facilitated in a team setting. This avoids some common pitfalls, as follows:

  • Pitfall = Leader’s voice carries most weight
  • Pitfall = Loudest voice carries most weight
  • Pitfall = Inconsistent analysis of ideas
  • Pitfall = Leadership Team not fully aligned with strategic direction/decisions
  • Pitfall = Missing high risk or compliance areas in resource planning
  • Pitfall = Trying to do too many things at once
  • Pitfall = Delaying the decision, which carries opportunity cost

AJC has three prioritization tools eliminate these pitfalls by articulating clear, meaningful criteria against which to evaluate each idea. Our tools help objectively prioritize initiatives, projects, quick win ideas, processes, new products; anything that requires competing resources or when it is ambiguous what the exact right thing is to do.

At this stage, there are two tools which are helpful, the third being reserved for making quick decisions when relative tradeoffs are being made within a larger initiative or process.  The two helpful tools also have their own strengths, as follows:

  1. Prioritization Matrix Tool© – AJC® created this tool primarily to thoroughly evaluate new opportunities against multiple success factors or criteria, and when there is a choice involved with what will be done
  2. Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) – This is an industry standard tool that uses  the Cost of Delay in conjunction with job size to prioritize existing projects/initiatives, even daily activities, where there is competition for the same resources

In a situation where the organization will use the same resources for existing projects as for new, some tradeoffs must be made.  If the in-flight projects can be “killed” in preference for a better one or because they may not support the Thematic Goal, they should be prioritized with all new projects and initiatives using the Prioritization Matrix Tool.  If the in-flight work is not optional, they should be prioritized using WSJF, and remaining resources available one the current priorities are known can be part of the evaluation criteria for the Prioritization Matrix Tool. 

For example, consider an organization with a 9-month Thematic Goal of: “Gain >50% Market Share in our 5 Local Regions.” They are mid-way through a New Product Introduction (NPI) that requires cross-functional team members from Sales, Marketing, Procurement, Operations, and Finance to complete. They also are in flight with a new website initiative, and a re-tooling effort for their production floor.

In their annual offsite, they discuss external factors and learn that while their NPI is still relevant to their key customers, the marketing campaign is taking longer than anticipated, highlighting concerns for what the industry pulse will be when it is now forecasted to launch. Additionally, demand is trending up, but with an upcoming seasonal lull that will reduce utilization of their production floor. 

Given their Thematic Goal, the team could use WSJF to determine which of their in-flight projects should continue without delay – likely the NPI and re-tooling, which will take advantage of the seasonal lull.  They also can see that the marketing campaign could be killed in favor of other initiatives that may better serve the regional growth focus for now. They would evaluate the availability of their cross-functional team and include that as one of the criteria in their Prioritization tool.  Their three criteria may be:

  1. Likelihood of success with available resources
  2. Likelihood of regional sales increases
  3. Ability to outsource specific work easily and within budget

If they are in a regulated industry, a fourth binomial criteria may be “Regulatory?” (Yes/No).

AJC’s Prioritization Matrix Tool is shown below, and this Lunch and Learn describes further how to use it.

AJC® Prioritization Tool©

The key to this type of prioritization is to use pre-defined and aligned criteria to make decisions, then allow everyone to help with scoring. It is best to have an outside Facilitator, or at least someone who can remain objective even if his/her idea is being evaluated.  When scores do not align, the Facilitator will lead a quick conversation around gaining consensus, using averages, or median values.  After that, the prioritization becomes a formula where the scores are numerically sorted from greatest to least, and the results are transparent to the entire team.

Working Genius Note – Choosing a Strategic Plan of Action

Discernment and Tenacity team members will LOVE this objective prioritization. Discerners will be able to share their criteria for decision making and shed light on what goes on inside their heads naturally as the whole team uses their logic to understand critical factors to the organization. Tenacity team members will appreciate the organized process and that it comes to a logical conclusion, without being bogged down in subjectivity and delay.

If there is a Galvanizer in the group who can remain objective to the process, that person would likely be a great option for facilitating the WSJF and Prioritization Matrix activities.  However, it may also be a good idea to find an objective Facilitator (likely a Galvanizer!) to come in from the outside and help the team through this process.

Read the previous article in our AJC Playbook Series: How to Rally the Team and Avoid Silos?

Read the next article in our AJC Playbook Series:  How to Implement Strategic Projects?

Link back to AJC Playbook: Sharing our Methodology (and Running Table of Contents)