Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Prioritizing a List of Ideas

I was reminded of a great quote by George Bernard Shaw; "If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange those ideas, then each of us will have two ideas".

Teams in the workplace today have little time for in-depth analyses of issues. They look for ways to streamline their work. Ideas that are generated during brainstorming sessions often result in long lists containing 100 or more ideas. So how does a team prioritize such a list quickly?

The first step in the process is to group similar ideas. IT IS IMPORTANT DURING THIS PROCESS TO WRITE BOTH IDEAS TOGETHER AS THE GROUPED IDEA AND NOT JUST CROSS OUT DUPLICATES. People maintain ownership of their ideas and may withdraw if the impression is left that their idea was thrown out.

If there are still a large number of ideas (over 40) then use an ishikawa diagram (fishbone process) to group ideas into similar categories. Common groupings may be the 6 M's (Machine, Method, Materials, Maintenance, Man and Mother Nature), the 8 P's (Price, Promotion, People, Processes, Place / Plant, Policies, Procedures, and Product) or the 4 S's (Surroundings, Suppliers, Systems, Skills). Encourage the group to come up with its own natural groupings based on the ideas generated during the brainstorming process.

Once the grouping have taken the ideas down to a smaller, more manageable list (less that 40 items), use the 10-4 voting method to Pareto the ideas into the highest priority.

10-4 voting

Each person is given 10 "points" that they can "spend" on any idea. No more than 4 points can be used on any one idea. All 10 points must be used by each participant. Number the ideas for easy reference. Have the group spend a few minutes to determine where they want to spend their points. Then, in rotation, have each team member tell you how they want their points distributed. Ensure that each person spends all 10 points and no more than 4 on any one item. No saving points for future consideration. Once the votes are done, add the total points on each item to generate your top 10 list of items to tackle. Assign teams to work on the top items on your list.

Explain that while all the items generated are important, we have limited resources, so the team will focus on the top items first, then come back to the remaining items as time and resources permit. Once the top items are completed, repeat the process with the remaining items.

Note that this method of Pareto analysis is based on group opinion. In some situations, the top items should be validated with data to ensure the group opinion is aligned with the current actual situation. Often the group opinion and data will not align, as thorough analysis has not been done.

The 10-4 voting system can be used with sticky dots, available from a stationary store. Each person is given 10 dots, and can put their dots on any item with a maximum of 4 on any one item.


1 comment:

Tim McMahon said...

Never heard about the 10-4 voting method. I have used voting but this may provide a more narrow effect. Thanks for sharing.

Tim McMahon
A Lean Journey

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