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Importance versus value

Recently I saw a flipchart with a classic diagram on it. You might have seen it before. It’s a grid with urgency on one axis and importance on the other. This creates four quadrants:
1 – urgent and important
2 – not urgent and important
3 – urgent and not important
4 – not urgent and not important


Most people use this as a way to prioritise tasks they need to do. Tasks in block 1 should be done immediately, those in 2 should be done later, those in 3 should be delegated and those in 4 should not be done at all.

While looking at this grid I realised that at Growing Agile we also use a grid to prioritise our work, but we use different axes. We use value and effort. Our four quadrants are:
1 – high value and low effort
2 – high value and high effort
3 – low value and low effort
4 – low value and high effort


We prioritise our work by doing block 1, then block 2, then block 3. We don’t generally do things in block 4.

Thinking about the differences I realised our approach looks at maximising return on investment (ROI). We try to get the most value for the least amount of effort. The other approach is more about business pressure. Sometimes urgent and important don’t actually tie in to delivering value and there is no accounting for effort. The benefit of the second model is that it causes us to have a discussion about value and effort for everything we do, which often causes us to question why we are doing something.

How do you prioritise your work? If you use the first grid, try using the second one for a few weeks and let us know if you notice a difference.

5 thoughts on “Importance versus value”

  1. Schalk Cronjรฉ

    Kautilyan ( ~300BC – 150AD ) wrote that it is beter to have lost of low-value productions (at low-cost) rather than few high-value productions (at high-cost). Pretty remarkable given that it was roughly 2000yrs ago. Obviously he quantified cost, which brings up an interesting question: How do you quantify value & effort?

    1. Interesting. I expect that is the value is not guaranteed then this is a good model because it’s spreading your risk. We use potential revenue for value in Rands, and hours of our time for effort.

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