An action priority matrix is a productivity tool that helps businesses prioritize certain tasks and objectives over others. The matrix itself is represented by four quadrants on a typical cartesian graph. These quadrants are plotted against the effort required to complete a task (x-axis) and the impact (benefit) that each task brings once completed (y-axis). This matrix helps assess what projects need to be undertaken and the potential impact for each.
Understanding the action priority matrix
The action priority matrix (APM) is a diagrammatic representation that clearly illustrates which activities must be finished on time and which can be left until a later date. The APM has important implications for businesses. Those who make wise choices on which tasks to pursue first maximize return on investment. Conversely, those who make poor choices devote themselves to time and resource-intensive tasks that hinder growth.
This yields four categories:
- Quick wins (high impact, low effort) – the most desirable tasks because of their ability to deliver a worthwhile return for relatively little effort.
- Major projects (high impact, high effort) – major projects yield great returns but they are often time and resource-intensive. As a result, they have the potential to negate several smaller and quicker wins.
- Fill-ins – (low impact, low effort) – including tasks such as filing, data entry, and email. While they are low in effort and in most cases essential, their impact is minimal.
- Thankless tasks (high effort, low impact) – otherwise known as hard slog tasks, they should be avoided wherever possible.
Creating an action priority matrix
In the action priority matrix model, effort can denote such things as cost, time, organizational obstacles, or any obstacle that might impede a task being performed. Impact can be measured quantitatively (profitability, revenue, cost) or qualitatively (morale, brand image, customer perception).
To categorize specific tasks, assign scores based on the effort and subsequent benefits of each task. While the exact scoring system is less important, many choose to use the school grading model (A to F) or a simply 1-10 scale. When scoring, businesses must use common sense when values fall close to quadrant boundaries. For example, a task with a score of 4.9 is categorized as a thankless task while one with a very similar score of 5.1 is a major project.
Once each task has been scored, plot them on the matrix according to their assigned values. As a general rule, quick wins should be prioritized and the remaining time spent on major projects. This is a useful strategy for businesses seeking to boost morale or build momentum quickly. Low impact, low effort fill-in activities should be delegated, outsourced, or avoided completely.
- An action priority matrix allows businesses to prioritize efficient and intelligent decisions.
- An action priority matrix is separated into four quadrants, according to the degree of effort and the potential benefits of a specific task.
- Action priority matrices can utilize a wide range of parameters specific to business operations. However, care must be taken when scoring to ensure that businesses do not focus their efforts in the wrong areas.
Connected Business Frameworks