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Impact & Effort Matrix


Impact & Effort Matrix, originally uploaded by dgray_xplane.

Object of Play
In this decision-making exercise, possible actions are mapped based on two factors: effort required to implement and potential impact. Some ideas are costly, but may have a bigger long-term payoff than short-term actions. Categorizing ideas along these lines is a useful technique in decision making, as it obliges contributors to balance and evaluate suggested actions before committing to them.

Number of Players: Based on small groups, but can scale to any size

Duration of Play: 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size of the group

How to Play
Given a goal, a group may have a number of ideas for how to achieve it. To open the exercise, frame the goal in terms of a “What to do” or “What we need” question. This may sound as simple as “What do we need to reach our goal?” Ask the group to generate ideas individually on sticky notes. Then, using Post-Up, ask them to present their ideas back to the group by placing them within a 2×2 matrix that
is organized by impact and effort: Impact: The potential payoff of the action, vs. Effort: The cost of taking the action

As participants place their ideas into the matrix, the group may openly discuss the position of elements. It is not uncommon for an idea to be bolstered by the group and to move up in potential impact or down in effort. In this respect, the category of high impact, low effort will often hold the set of ideas that the group is most agreed upon and committed to.

The source of the Impact & Effort Matrix game is unknown.

Impact & Effort

Clicking on this image will bring you to an “instant game” at, where you can play Impact & Effort Matrix online. The same image will be used as the matrix, which has a different impact-effort combination in each quadrant.

• High Impact, Low Effort: The best ideas go here!
• High Impact, High Effort: Further study is likely required.
• Low Impact, High Effort: Probably best to avoid these.
• Low Impact, Low Effort: Further study is likely required.

The light bulbs you will see at the upper left corner of the chart represent ideas. Simply add an idea to the chart by dragging a light bulb to its corresponding quadrant and describing what it is.

All moves can be seen in real time by each participant, so everyone can collaborate to edit the descriptions and positions of the posted strategies. Communicate using the integrated chat facility to work together and form useful ideas.


6 thoughts on “Impact & Effort Matrix

  1. […] the first day, we did the Impact & Effort Matrix exercise (p. 241) for our long term product strategy. We were looking to see whether there were strategic […]

  2. […] grid games. Examples include: Boundary Matrix, WhoDo, SWOT Analysis, Pro/Con List, Plus/Delta, Impact & Effort Matrix, and How-Now-Wow […]

  3. Two things I’ve discovered while using this tool:

    1. It helps a lot if you describe the lower end of both axes as “not negative.” Any time you draw lines through the middle of a square like this, folks tend to think of the lower (or left) half of the quadrant as “less than 0,” or “negative impact” and “negative effort.”

    There are certainly scenarios where an undertaking might actually be so counterproductive you would describe it as “negative impact,” but that’s awfully rare. When I don’t clarify by saying, “that lower part and left-most part is *not negative* . . . it’s just low,” people crowd all of their sticky notes in the upper left.

    2. There is a big difference between for-profit and non-profit groups. The analysis (the smiley faces) of each quadrant in this drawing is probably more appropriate for for-profit contexts. In non-profit contexts, I would say that the upper right quadrant *probably* represents the core of their mission—the hard work that they believe is worth doing. Much of what ends up here is not “maybe,” it’s, “this is our work.”

    For example, it’s a lot of effort for the Red Cross to collect and preserve blood, but it also has a significant impact. It’s probably easier for them to run PSAs—which might have a pretty significant impact—but what they *do* is get blood into the hands of doctors and hospitals who need it. Again, it’s the core of their work—it’s effortful *and* impactful. I think you’ll find that non-profits across the board fit this model.

    Of course, the rest of the chart still makes sense—and the analysis is spot-on.

  4. Sorry, meant “. . . people crowd all of their sticky notes in the upper RIGHT.”

  5. Good point Jeremy.

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