This article is the third of an eight-part series to help you break through traditional growth barriers.  Any one of these eight lessons, applied with confidence and persistence, can make a difference.  Collectively, they can drive significant outcomes.   Are you ready to begin a journey of Breakthrough Growth?

In the last article, we talked about the action plan and how you will identify specific initiatives that will operationalize your strategy.  Let’s dig into the process for creating them.

Start with the strategy

Start with the strategy, and ask the team what it will take to make the strategy happen and achieve breakthrough growth.  Make an unedited list of all the suggestions.  No matter the size of the company, it is not unusual to get over 20 different ideas.

Identify challenges

The next step is to identify those that overlap and then combine what makes sense.  Be sure everyone has the same understanding of what is intended with each initiative.  Discuss what each would mean to the company, from everyone’s point of view.  For example, the CIO might have a different view of the impact a suggested database might make than the VP of Marketing may have.  At this stage, do not get sidetracked in trying to solve the challenges each suggestion represents; in this stage, you are simply capturing those challenges.

Evaluate and Prioritize

Now comes the fun part: the prioritization.  If you haven’t already developed decision criteria, do so now.  The purpose of decision criteria is to ensure decisions made at all levels of the company and over time are consistent in approach, reflecting the success factors of the organizations.

The four quadrants of decision criteria are strategic fit, resource impact, customer acceptance, and financial implications.  Score each initiative using the decision criteria.

Rank them by importance to the strategy

Once you have scored them, establish a rank order from 1 to x.  The next step is to discuss them.  Is there a ranking that doesn’t make sense?  Perhaps there is an initiative where someone ranked it really high and others ranked it low?  Or everybody except for one person, the boss, ranked something low?  Talk it out  Agree on the overall ranking.

Theoretically, they should now be ranked in importance to the strategy.  The most highly ranked initiatives are those that will make the the most impact on achieving breakthrough growth.  However, we know that our time gets stolen away from what is important to that which is urgent far too often.

Rank them by urgency

Have the group rank the top initiatives by urgency: high, medium, or low.  Re-sort the initiatives so those high in importance AND high in urgency are at the top of the list.  Those are called high-highs, and they demand to be prioritized first and resourced fully.  Every company can only do so many things and these are the things to do first!

Next are initiatives high in importance but medium in urgency.  After that are medium importance and high urgency initiatives.  And so on.  Why does importance trump urgency?  Usually we spend time on what we must, not what moves the needle the furthest.  This is a harmful pattern as there is always something urgent.  We spend way too much effort resolving heartburn instead of doing the kinds of things that can eliminate it forever.

Next week, we will look at how to move from initiatives into projects.

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