Action Priority Matrix

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:

  1. Quick wins (high impact, low effort) – the most desirable tasks because of their ability to deliver a worthwhile return for relatively little effort.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 

Key takeaways:

  • 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

SWOT Analysis

SWOT Analysis is a framework used for evaluating the business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It can aid in identifying the problematic areas of your business so that you can maximize your opportunities. It will also alert you to the challenges your organization might face in the future.

PESTEL Analysis

The PESTEL analysis is a framework that can help marketers assess whether macro-economic factors are affecting an organization. This is a critical step that helps organizations identify potential threats and weaknesses that can be used in other frameworks such as SWOT or to gain a broader and better understanding of the overall marketing environment.

Porter’s Five Forces

Porter’s Five Forces is a model that helps organizations to gain a better understanding of their industries and competition. Published for the first time by Professor Michael Porter in his book “Competitive Strategy” in the 1980s. The model breaks down industries and markets by analyzing them through five forces

VRIO Framework

The VRIO framework is a tool that businesses can use to identify and then protect the factors that give them a long-term competitive advantage. The VRIO framework will help assess reality based on four key elements that make up its name (VRIO): value, rarity, imitability, and organization. VRIO is a holistic framework to assess the business.

Balanced Scorecard

First proposed by accounting academic Robert Kaplan, the balanced scorecard is a management system that allows an organization to focus on big-picture strategic goals. The four perspectives of the balanced scorecard include financial, customer, business process, and organizational capacity. From there, according to the balanced scorecard, it’s possible to have a holistic view of the business.

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