How to set priorities in an action plan


After a survey, a brainstorming session or a discussion it is often true that you end up with a long list of actions that should be put into an action plan. With many actions, maybe only a small number of people available to execute on those actions and possibly a small budget available for some of the actions, this could seem overwhelming.  The important question is: How can you prioritize the actions so you can make the most of the available resources (people to work on them) and funding (available budget)? And on top of that make sure that the most important actions are completed first?

Rate all the projects or activities on two questions:

  • what is the level of impact on your company, project, company if you completed that project/activity? (high means it would me a very big difference (positively))
  • how hard is it to implement this? (referring to available resources, skills and knowledge needed, tools needed, funding needed) (very difficult means you have very limited resources and budget and this project or activity would need more than you have available right now)

Use the scores obtained to plot your planned projects or activities onto this graphic: (the graphic shows an example based on the table and ratings above)

What to focus on?

Use the guide below to understand which of your projects or activities should be a high priority, low priority or medium priority with possible additional research needed.

One the one hand the question is: can you overcome what is difficult about that particular activity or project? Can you (for example) convince someone make more funding available if you present a very solid business case to highlight the value to the company or the project?

Or can you get more people to help? The other question to look into is whether the impact is really as low as you imagine? Speak to others to hear their views of how such a project or activity could possibly benefit more areas than you think. Perhaps the project is much more valuable than you think and it moves into the “green” quadrant meaning it should be a high priority for you to work on and complete.

If your dots appear in one of the yellow sections, you have some questions to ponder. If you can solve the question in each case you may be able to move that particular action into a different “zone” by changing the score. This means you are able to for example make it easier to implement by solving an issue which made it particularly difficult to implement. Or it could mean you realize the business impact is bigger than you previously realized because the company could gain a competitive edge if you implemented that particular action.  Your final action plan for immediate focus areas should contain those actions which finally end up in the green zone on the legend.

Be sure to communicate the reasoning behind your high priority actions to the key stakeholders in the outcomes of the action plan. They may have additional insights to share which could further cause you to change the scoring of actions.

You can use the Action Plan posted here to capture the actions that you will implement, monitor status of and report on regularly.

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