What is an impact effort matrix?
An impact effort matrix is a decision-making tool that assists people to manage their time more efficiently. An organization, team, or individual assesses activities based on the level of effort required and the potential impact or benefits they will have.
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.
The impact effort matrix is also referred to as an action priority matrix.
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
- Carefully select participants to provide expert knowledge but also a fresh perspective.
- Use technology to involve critical people in different locations rather than miss their contribution.
- Be specific rather than broad when defining activities.
- Provide adequate time in the session to position and rate activities.
- Communicate outcomes and regularly update throughout the project.
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 which 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 give the best return based on the effort. They are valuable and fundamental to your success. Focus on actions in this quadrant and complete them before anything else.
Activities what provide long term returns but may be more complex to execute. Be selective and only pursue them if they are likely to be worth the effort. Plan and execute efficiently.
Unimportant activities including everyday tasks. Don’t worry about these activities. Keep them on the back burner and complete them when there is excess capacity.
These activities are time-consuming and require resources that are better spent on other things. They are generally not worth completing so avoid, delegate, or defer them.
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. However, there is no reason why you can’t brainstorm, prioritize, and develop a consolidated action plan in less than an hour.
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 the 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
Ask participants to list all of the activities they think need to be done to achieve a particular goal. Try to include everything that takes time or resources, however insignificant they might seem. This step can be shortened by bringing in the outcomes from other brainstorming exercises, eg. SWOT or SOAR Analysis, strategic plans, project plans.
Brainstorm ideas individually or as a group using a whiteboard, post-it notes, or an online collaboration tool like GroupMap.
Combine the ideas to get an overview. Discuss and clarify the ideas for the whole group. Merge similar ideas and remove duplicates or activities not in scope.
Discuss the consolidated lists and their value to the goal. Rank each one in the relevant quadrant according to their agreed impact and effort. The resulting matrix shows you if people agree on the priorities so you can talk through and manage any issues early on and focus on the things that really matter.
Using an online collaboration tool like GroupMap to collate ideas can significantly reduce the time and effort required especially if the brainstorming and positioning were done as individuals, in small groups, or at different times or locations.
The content of each quadrant feeds directly into the action plan.
Assign activities to individuals or teams with clear time frames. Assign and resource the Quick Wins first, then the Major Projects. Agree on how and when the Fill In activities will be managed and stop doing Time Wasters.
Distribute the action plan and priorities from the impact effort matrix to relevant stakeholders. Use the document to monitor successful implementation.
GroupMap automatically generates visually appealing reports and action plans in several formats for distribution, saving time and effort after the analysis.
Save effort, time and money with GroupMap
Whether you have your best minds together in the same room, or distributed around the world, GroupMap’s unique technology allows groups of up to 2000 to submit ideas independently at separate times, from different places, in different timezones. Prevent dominant personalities swaying the group, drowning out the opinions of others – GroupMap allows everyone to brainstorm independently then effortlessly combines that information to reveal the full spectrum of ideas. GroupMap templates keep the objective front and center throughout the session, keeping everyone on task. This ensures the activity identifies actionable issues rather than becoming just a discussion on ideas. GroupMap gives you all the group decision making tools you need to prioritize, decide and take action.
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