When an identified challenge needs more or faster progress toward a successful outcome, we must act on the ideas generated. This includes both the initial ideas and new ones developed by responding to feedback and the lessons learned during implementation.  The next step is to carefully triage and select the one or two ideas that hold the most promise. 

This selection process involves a nuanced evaluation of potential impact, the confidence in achieving that impact, and the effort required to realize the idea. Additionally, it’s essential to consider the organization’s capacity constraints, even though this may limit the scope of what teams can pursue right now.

CASE proposes that this triage and selection isn’t an annual process but a near just-in-time process. When performed annually, no account can be made for feedback and new ideas. There is no need to plan commitment to the delivery of ideas until there is capacity and a need to do so. By delaying this commitment, more information is known and available to make an informed choice. Keep all options open until you need to make a decision.

Rapid Triage Process (ICE)

We can use the same method for prioritizing ideas that we used to prioritize challenges for investment.  As a recap, we use the ICE (impact, confidence, and effort) subjective inputs to sort the ideas into different groups. 

The general form of priority for an idea is:

“Achieving this idea has [low, medium or high] outcome impact

and we have [low, medium, or high] confidence that it is achievable  

with [low, medium, or high] effort.  

We aren’t looking for perfect rank ordering. Given the brevity of the idea, that would be unattainable without a lot of detailed planning. Instead, we are looking to reduce the 25 ideas to the top one or two with some group consensus. The impact, confidence, and effort values are set relative  to the other ideas being discussed.

When facilitating triaging and idea selection in group settings, here is a list of non-leading questions that can help guide your teams:

Impact

  • What is the potential change or benefit this idea will bring to our outcome and leading indicator metrics?
  • How does this idea align with our long-term vision?
  • Can this idea potentially open up other ideas, opportunities, or markets?
  • Does this idea solve the challenge for all customers or just a subset?
  • Who are the primary beneficiaries of this idea, and how significant is the effect on them?
  • What could be the potential downside if this idea fails to deliver the expected outcomes?

Confidence

  • How predictable are the outcomes associated with this idea?
  • How quickly would we expect to see outcomes from this idea?
  • Do we have past experiences or data that support the feasibility of this idea?
  • Are there external factors or dependencies that could influence our success? How controllable are they?

Effort

  • What teams and skills are required to execute this idea?
  • How much invention is needed to make this idea come true? Do we understand what is needed?
  • Do we have the necessary in-house skills and expertise to implement this idea, or would we need to outsource?
  • How does this idea fit with our current workload and priorities?
  • What are the major steps or milestones involved in implementing this idea?
  • Is there any potential for scaling up the effort if the initial implementation is successful?

By asking these questions, you facilitate a comprehensive discussion that can help your team thoroughly evaluate each idea against the key criteria of Impact, Confidence, and Effort, guiding them toward a consensus on how to rank each idea appropriately.

Idea Selection

The goal is to be continuously ready to select an idea and move it into the development or “do” pipeline. Until this point, the more ideas, the merrier, but that stops here. Too many ideas in progress simultaneously will cause complete traffic jams in the workflow. Teams will be overwhelmed. Starting too many ideas at once leads to Congestion Collapse; Too much work in a system (cars on the road, shoppers wanting to checkout, web servers selling Taylor Swift tickets), and causes exponential growth in the waiting time for a “service.” We need to avoid this, and much of that happens in the next activity (Plan and Coordinate), but it all starts by selecting just the most urgent and likely to succeed ideas.

The abovementioned ICE method separates the work into multiple value-versus-impact buckets. Often, there are still several viable candidate ideas vying for one spot. Before the final decision, a group often needs to pick one. Here is some general advice when working with groups on this final selection:

  1. If two ideas are generally equal, take the one that involves fewer teams (fewer dependencies).
  2. If two ideas generally have the same impact and confidence, take the one with the least effort.
  3. If two ideas generally have the same impact and effort, take the one with the highest confidence.
  4. If one idea is only going to be excluded due to the effort, suggest splitting that idea into smaller ideas and seeing if something smaller can obtain most of the value.

If the triage process is done well, this final idea selection will be fast and agreed upon. If there is significant discussion at this level, something (more likely someone) wasn’t participating in the original triage process.

Activity 4: Idea Generation

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