Few businesses we know have only short lists of projects, improvemements, or investments they would like to make. More often the list is long and diverse, and the list becomes stuck in internal debate and circular conversations.  If your improvement ideas are languishing in limbo, this tool for prioritizing your project list might just be the catalyst you need to get your leadership team out of dueling egos and into action mode.  Develop a Criteria Screen.student-group-banner3

The Criteria Screen is exactly what it sounds like – you (or your group) create a short list of your most important evaluation characteristics.  Then you assign each of your projects a score for each of the criteria.  The project with the highest score based upon the total of the criteria is the one you complete first.  Here’s a sample:

Sample Criteria Screen

As you can see in the slide above, the second project “Research new source for raw goods” had the highest score against the criteria.  This project is high value in speed, quality, and customer impact, and it has the best score for low/no cost to implement.

The Criteria Screen is especially useful in a group process where you want to create buy-in as well as determine the actions you are going to take. The group helps to create the criteria as well as to score the potential projects against the criteria.  Most commonly the group comes to a consensus on the score for each of the items, and it’s completely OK for the facilitator to allow negotiated scores like 7.5 or 4.75 to keep things moving.

The Benefit of a Strategic Plan to Determine Criteria

Caution: If your business does not have stated core values or a plan with goals that have been communicated throughout the team, it might take the group some time to negotiate what the decision making criteria should be.  A Strategic Plan (a look beyond the next budget year) provides a benchmark against which to align the allocation of your resources and the prioritization of your activities.

Your plan need not be a 25-page tome that is leather bound and locked in a cabinet.  The best plan is one that is readily translated into operational terms, and it may be as short as one page. It lays out your company’s purpose, values, desired big accomplishments and near-term goals. In addition, it’s extremely helpful to engage an outside facilitator to provide the process and structure, and to allow all of the company’s leadership team to participate fully in the planning conversation.