The Vital FewIn Six Sigma, the Vital Few represents the (20%) independent variables (X’s) which contribute to the maximum (80%) of the total variation. While this would be a perfectly good subject to write a quick tip about, I am not going to go there today. Instead, I want to take the concept of a vital few and apply it to projects and time management.

Historically, I have been guilty of taking way too much on without any idea how I was going to get it all done. I would just say yes and hope I could check off enough tasks to satisfy my manager. What did I need to work on first? What would have the most profound impact on the organization? What are my vital few obligations at the moment? I got lucky a time or two, but I also took my lumps along the way.

Then, I developed a project grading matrix. The grading matrix helped me to prioritize and focus on just my vital few projects, and what a difference it has made.

Grading Matrix

As each task is added, I score it for both difficulty and organizational impact. The higher the score, the higher it goes on my list. If the highest score for any item currently on my list is a five, and another project pops up that scores an eight, the project with the rating of eight will receive the majority of my attention.

The grading matrix is a very simple tool we can use to organize our projects or department initiatives. There will sometimes be more variables involved than just difficulty and impact, but these are a great place to start. You say you don’t like lists or paper? An electronic version of this could be built on your department’s SharePoint site.

This tool is part of LLD’s Strategic Planning and Ideation class. Click here for more information.


Click here for a printable version.