Impact / Effort Matrix

TL;DR

Draw a large square and create 4 squares from that one. Draw an x-axis of effort and y-axis of impact, then plot your ideas where they lie.

What you'll need

  • Whiteboard/flipchart
  • Pens
  • Ideas

The Impact / Effort matrix is a quick way to evaluate the potential impact and effort of ideas before committing to them. It requires ideas or research findings already generated and prioritised (if you had a lot) through an affinity diagram or a similar exercise.

Sketch a square segmented into quadrants on a whiteboard. Label the axes Impact and Effort and list all the ideas on individual post-its. After consideration, ask the participants to place the generated ideas into each quadrant. Once this has been done, move the post-its within each of the quadrants so that clear differences can be seen.

The results will give you an idea of what ideas are ‘low-hanging fruit’ (those that are easy to achieve and have an immediate impact) and those which will take a lot of effort for little or no reward. See below for an example matrix with 10 ideas; you may have a lot more. It’s a good idea to have representatives from each of your production teams (or an in-touch manager position) to enable you to estimate effort effectively.

An impact / effort matrix showing 4 quadrants from high to low impact against effort

A note here to let participants know that the lower parts of each axis aren’t usually negative, but are simply less than the higher parts. This can avoid people not wanting to be negative towards other ideas.