Well, maybe I have more than one favorite tool – but there are 2 that arefun to use with a group.

One is sticky-note brainstorming. It avoids the perils of the regular “everybody call out their ideas” brainstorming, because (a) you get 100% participation; (b) you can get LOTS of ideas in just a few minutes; (c) you don’t need a scribe to try to capture everything as multiple people are speaking quickly; (d) you avoid people being worried about “what will my boss think” about an idea; (e) it’s anonymous so people are braver; (f) you can put duplicates on top of one another and categorize with ease, just by moving them around. Also (g) you can use colorful sticky-notes and make a cheerful impression rather than a boring one!

Secondly, if I’m using thegroup’s ideas to capture possible solutions, I really like to use an Impact/Effort Matrix. You may have heard of this under another name – it’s a 2×2 matrix with Impact along one axis (High, Low) and Effort along the other (Easy, Hard). I ask the group members to place the sticky notes in the appropriate category – if there’s doubt they can place them on the dividing line. Then I can facilitate the group to ask, “Does this idea belong here? Do we all agree that it’s High Impact (or whatever) and Easy to do?” If not, we have a good discussion and end up with consensus. It’s amazing how this helps to prioritize the efforts – we will definitely pursue the “High Impact, Easy” ideas; think about a plan for the “High Impact, Hard” ideas; see if we can catch some low hanging fruit with the “Low Impact, Easy” ideas; and forget about the “Low Impact, Hard” ideas.

These ideas can then be turned into action plans or placed in a parking lot as appropriate. Using the sticky-note brainstorming to get 100% participation, and the Impact/Effort Matrix to prioritize ideas, results in better decision-making and better buy-in to the resulting plans.

What are your favorite change management / process improvement tools?

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