What is an impact effort matrix?
An impact effort matrix is a decision-making tool that assists people to manage their time more efficiently.
Each potential idea, strategy or project is assessed based on the level of effort required and the potential impact or benefits they will have.
This is also why it is commonly known as the action priority matrix.
The result is a visual representation of where best to assign time and resources. Activities fall into one of four categories:
- Quick wins – Give the best return based on the effort.
- Major projects – Provide long term returns but may be more complex to execute.
- Fill ins – Don’t require a lot of effort but neither do they offer many benefits.
- Time wasters – Time-consuming activities with low impact that should be avoided.
Why use an impact effort matrix?
An impact effort analysis:
- Rapidly identifies what activities you should focus on, along with the ones you should ignore.
- Helps optimize limited time and resources.
- Provides time to reflect on a range of strategies and find the most efficient path to achieve goals and reduce wasted time and effort.
- Helps get projects back on track, aligns team priorities, and identify the best solutions to a problem.
Who can use an impact effort matrix?
An impact effort matrix is often applied by Lean Six Sigma projects to maximize team productivity. However, its simplicity and versatility make it useful for everything from daily to-do lists through to strategic action plans.
This activity is really useful for project managers, scrum masters and team leaders who are looking to prioritise their work to ensure they are working on the things that are the most valuable.
Impact effort matrix template
The impact effort matrix template plots activities against two variables:
- Level of Effort (Horizontal Axis) – How much time, money, resources, and capacity will be needed to achieve the desired outcome.
- Level of Impact (Vertical Axis) – How much value or impact the outcomes will have on the business or project.
The result is a simple 2 x 2 matrix. Each activity is categorized into one of four quadrants, providing a visual representation of where to focus resources and effort, and where to avoid activities altogether.
Activities that provide long term returns but may be more complex to execute.
How to build an impact effort matrix
The time required to construct an impact effort matrix depends on the organization, the size of the group, and the objectives of the session. In order to generate really creative ideas, it may be a good idea to have smaller teams, run quick pitching of ideas or run ice breakers to get ideas flowing.
Define a clear objective for the impact effort analysis.
Think of all the current activities required to achieve your objectives.
Collate and consolidate the list.
Assess the impact and effort of each activity and position on the matrix.
Identify actions, and assign responsibilities and timeframes. Start with Quick Wins and Major Projects.
Share the outcomes of the session, including the action plan, to relevant stakeholders.
Start by defining the objective and scope of the impact effort analysis session. Be clear about whether it’s focused on the strategic, tactical, project, product/service, or personal level and have a clear time frame (day, week, month, one or more years.)
Examples of impact effort matrix objectives:
- Prioritize actions from our SOAR session.
- Develop priorities for the XYZ project team
- Establish priorities and milestones for an individual’s performance plan.
Having a clear definition around impact and effort is the key to obtaining a good outcome from your impact effort analysis.
- Impact relates to the benefits of the outcome and might include increased profits, sales volume, customer satisfaction, or any number of other measurements.
- Effort is what needs to be done to get those outcomes. Examples include money, equipment, and person hours.
The values on the axes can be:
- Qualitative, e.g., Low, Medium, High, or
- Quantitative, e.g., a scale from 1 to 10, $$, hours, volume
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