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, a small number of people available to execute on those actions while also doing their normal day jobs and possibly low funds available for some of the actions this could seem overwhelming.  At such a time it becomes really important that you are somehow able to prioritize the list of actions to focus your limited resources and funds on the most important actions. But which ones are more important than the others?

The Priority Setting resource I am sharing with you contains a section where you can enter all of the actions you have in the text column – simply replace the example statements I have there with your own actions. The next column is called Ease of Implementation. Consider how many people you would need to dedicate to an implementation, how long will it take? How much do you need to spend/invest in order to implement this action? If it will take a lot of people working intensively and it may cost a lot to invest – for example in buying expensive licences to a software package/system – then you should score that action closer to a 1 for this column. The harder it is to implement the lower the score should be. Your scores in this column should be between 1 and 5.

Priority Setting resource link.

The next column is called Impact Potential. This column requires a score for each action item in terms of how much will it improve your business or move you closer to achieving your strategies and business goals if you had this action completed? If the impact will be low then your score should be closer to 1. Low would mean that employees and customers would barely notice the difference after implementation. It could also mean you would not gain much strategic advantage, market share improvements, long-term positioning, synergies, major cost savings or any other business impact that would be noticeable. The scores in this column should be between 1 and 5.

The graph with dots will be generated automatically on the electronic worksheet after you have put in your actions and the scores as indicated. The numbers appearing next to the dots are the numbers that correlate with your list of actions. Use the graphic below that to interpret your score results and understand which actions you should prioritize over overs.

prioritising actions legend

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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