Building Awesome Plans Part III – Idea Prioritisation

A quick recap on things so far. By now you should have a pretty good understanding of your objectives, goals and strategic areas of focus and a decent list of ideas that could be executed within each area of focus. In fact you probably have far too many ideas to execute in a meaningful time frame so now is the time to start getting serious about what you will and won’t do.

As in the first stage, I find this is a good point to take your team offsite again so that you can really spend some focused time with your best people sorting through the ideas.

The real aim of this stage is to make decisions on:

  • what you are NOT committing to
  • what you ARE committing to
  • the PRIORITY of ideas you ARE committing to

Here are some tips on how to run the session:

Remind everyone what success looks like up front

Start the session off with a recap on your objectives, goals and strategic areas of focus. It’s useful for people to have this at the forefront of their minds as decisions are made about what you will and won’t do. Ultimately your objectives and goals are going to be achieved (hopefully over-achieved!) by your decisions here.

Spend time on each strategic area of focus separately 

I find the best approach is to take each area of focus seperately and then move through the three bullet points above. That’ll allow you to zone in on each one and really spend time on what the killer ideas for each are.

For each area, cover the three bullet points above:

What you are NOT committing to

Do a first pass of all the ideas so that you can weed out the crap – from the straight out whacky to just plain odd ideas. You’ll get a bunch of weird and wonderful ideas surface during brainstorming and now is the time to move aside those that just aren’t good enough. That’ll give you a shorter, higher quality list.

What you ARE committing to

You should now be looking at a pretty decent list of ideas. It may be that the list still feels to big and it’s sometimes useful to do a bit of further pruning so that you can end up with a list of what you feel confident are the ideas you should definately execute on. Give it another pass – are there any ‘eh’ ideas on the list? Are there any ideas that clearly jump out as high level of effort / high risk vs. reward? Are there ideas that even though they sound reasonable, no one is particularly excited about it? Weed them out.

The PRIORITY of ideas you ARE committing to

Ok, so you now have what looks like a more condensed list of the best ideas. Now is the time to get some concensus amongst the group as to what are the best ideas and generally what the priority of execution should be.

I quite like the ‘two ticks and a cross’ scoring system (credit to my colleague Mr Ogilvie for this one)

Heres how it works. First of all write all of the ideas up on a whiteboard and give everyone three votes – two ticks and a cross. Each person then needs to pick two ideas that they want to put a tick against (this represents their view as to what are the two ideas they are most excited about) and one idea that they want to put a cross against (this represents their view as to an idea they don’t feel particularly excited about). Once everyone has finished, you’ll start to see a picture for how the ideas should be prioritised.


As you discuss all of the above, you want the group to be as candid as possible. Now is not the time for people to keep quiet if they have strong feelings on whether an idea is brilliant or crap. Facilitate the discussion well and get lots of debate going.

And that’s it

If you follow the above, you should end up with a condensed list of ideas for each area of strategic focus and a strong sense as to how they should be prioritised.

The next step is to start to piece things together into an overall plan and to start to figure out what you can actually do and in what timeframe (Stage 4 – Detailed Planning – coming soon!).

If you have any questions so far on this post, the series in general or even how things read (I’m only just getting started on writing blog posts) let me know in the comments!


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