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ChangeWise QuickRead : Categorising and Prioritising Ideas (Part 1 of 2)

Following a successful ideas generation session, it can feel a little challenging trying to work out which ideas should be progressed first. Since all companies need to consider budget, resource and time constraints, the solution is never everything!

At ChangeWise, we recommend a simple 3-step process to help ensure you organise ideas effectively and only progress those that will add real value to your organisation.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

3 steps for value-add idea progression

Step 1: Affinity Mapping

Step 2: N/3 Voting

Step 3: Ease/Impact Matrix

In this QuickRead, we will focus on steps 1&2, Step 3 will be examined in a separate QuickRead.

Affinity Mapping and N/3 Voting are 2 simple techniques that allow us to categorise ideas more helpfully and narrow down the options for implementation.

Affinity Mapping

The word ‘affinity’ means to have an understanding of another person due to similar views, ideas, interests or qualities. This is why we refer to this particular sorting method as Affinity Mapping; the process of simply organising ideas (and sometimes data), into groups or themes. In doing so, we will also naturally remove any duplicate ideas.

Affinity Mapping is a collaborative exercise, best achieved in a workshop environment where a facilitator can ask team members; what sort of themes are we seeing here?

Categories are set by instinct, and may have more than one solution. This is ok, since the category titles are less important than making sure similar ideas are placed together.

In a recent workshop we created the following affinity categories:

💡 Training and Development

💡 System utilisation

💡 Communication

💡 Governance

⚠️ Important Point! The key thing is not to create too many; we recommend 5/6 key themes.

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N/3 Voting

Once ideas are categorised, the next step is to narrow them down into a manageable range.  This is where N/3 Voting is really useful.

N/3 Voting Process:

Step 1: Let’s assume that after a silent storming session the team have come up with 24 ideas – this would be too many to work on at once. Using the N/3 method, we take 24 and divide it by 3 to give 8.

Step 2: Each person involved in the session receives 8 votes for ideas they think are the easiest to implement and will give the biggest impact. Each team member then places a tick, dot or line beside the 8 individual ideas they think are best.

🙂 Tip! Sticky colored dots work really well for this exercise

🙂 Tip! If a team member is particularly keen on one specific idea, they can give it multiple votes

Step 3: Once everyone has voted, the ideas with the most votes enable a more focused list to progress and deliver.

Step 4: The remaining ideas (or ideas with only 1 vote) are parked until more time and resources are available.

Step 5: Allocate team resources to deliver and implement the focused list of ideas.

🙂 Tip! Depending on how many ideas you had to start with, you may need to go through a few rounds of N/3 until you get to a more manageable level.

Additional Benefits

⭐️ Simple and inexpensive to complete

⭐️ Acts as a collaborative way to focus progress, so great for achieving buy-in and ensuring everyone has a say

Photo by fauxels from Pexels

In Summary

Affinity Mapping and N/3 Voting are 2 simple techniques that allow us to categorise ideas more helpfully and narrow down the options for implementation. We particularly like this approach, as it empowers the team to collaboratively agree and direct the future plans.

Want to learn more about Lean tools and techniques that will ensure you only progress ideas that can add real value to your organisation? Contact us at and let’s get you started on your Lean journey!

ChangeWise believes employee engagement is the foundation for successful Change. Training and coaching your people to use simple continuous improvement techniques will enable your organisation to continuously adapt and stay ahead in a constantly changing and challenging environment.

For updates and interesting Lean Change insights, connect with us on LinkedIn.

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