If you are a veteran of strategic planning, you know that most planning efforts result in more strategies than you can possibly implement at once. Most organizations would be fortunate to implement 6-12 strategic initiatives in a year. However, many teams end up with 25-40 potential strategies, and one team we worked with had over 100! How do you go about deciding which strategies to undertake first? How do you determine your priorities?

There are a number of approaches for prioritizing.

Some organizations use the dot method: each participant receives a certain number of sticky dots based on the number of priorities desired. The participants are told to place their dots on those strategies that they believe should be started on first. The priorities with the most dots are given top priority.

Other organizations use a more elaborate, analytical approach such as the weighted score method: the team scores each strategy against a pre-determined list of criteria. The criteria are given weights, and the weighted score for a strategy is determined by multiplying the strategy’s score for each criterion by the criterion’s weight and then adding the results. Those strategies with the highest weighted scores are given top priority.

Other organizations take a hybrid approach: for example, they best bitcoin casino evaluate each strategy against a small number of criteria using a “high-medium-low” scale. They then use dots to determine final selection.

Whatever approach you use for determining priorities, we recommend that you keep three basic principles in mind.

Principle 1 – Define the criteria that people should use in setting priorities.

Without a set of common criteria, people will use what they believe is important. Unfortunately, in many cases a person’s individual criteria may differ significantly from those of the organization. For example, one person’s sole criterion for priority setting might be “support of my department.” This person would give highest priority to those strategies that provide the greatest support to the department – a fairly myopic view.

When setting priorities, even when using the dot method, we recommend that participants identify a common set of criteria to consider. We recommend using these three at a minimum:

Impact on VisionIf the strategy is successfully implemented, what will be the impact on achieving key objectives?
Probability of SuccessWhat is the probability that the strategy will be successfully implemented if we decide to undertake it?
Cost-EffectivenessHow do the tangible and intangible results expected from this strategy compare to the costs and resources required to implement it.

Principle 2 – Provide a lobbying period prior to voting/doting.

Every participant should have an opportunity to identify and explain why particular strategies should be given support. We call this the “lobby period.” If strategies are scored against criteria, we recommend for lobbying to occur after the scoring but before dotting or any other voting activity.

We typically give each person the opportunity to take 30-60 seconds to explain to the group the most important strategies to support and why. This controlled lobbying process allows each person the vehicle for influencing the opinions of others. This process also helps build consensus around particular solutions, as participants repeatedly hear support for a small number of strategies.

Principle 3 – Recognize that a score is not a decision.

Whether using the dot method, weighted scoring or some hybrid method, the result is typically a number that indicates the level of support for a particular strategy. It is important to recognize that the number is just a result of the analysis that was done and should serve as input to the final decision. Once strategies are ranked by the scores received, it is still the job of the group to accept the scores as indicating the final priorities or to make adjustments as necessary.

As an example, one organization, after prioritizing, realized that none of the internal activities (e.g., staff development, technology improvements) received high enough scores to be given priority. However, the team agreed to place one of these strategies on the priority list because it was essential to moving forward and sent the right message to staff that internal improvements were important as well.

Learn more about strategic planning and how to facilitate your team through the process in our course, Secrets to Facilitating Strategy. For a professional strategic planning facilitator for your next strategy development session or retreat, contact us to let us know your needs.