October 2009

Swim Lane Diagram:
Dive Into Complex Decision-Making

2017-03-01T11:56:20+00:00 Categories: grow, SandBlog|Tags: , , , , , |

Some weeks ago, I shared a decision making method that utilized a Two-By-Two Diagram to rank/filter ideas using two key parameters.

While I received positive feedback, I was asked what to use when you need to rank/filter ideas that involve more than just two parameters.

For this, I recommend using a “swim lane” diagram. (It involves parallel rows akin to lanes in a pool). This diagram allows you to rank an unlimited number of ideas by an unlimited number of qualities.

How It Works (The Basics)

Let’s say you and I have come up with three really great ideas that will help build awareness and excitement for our winter product line. They are summarized as…

  • Idea A,
  • Idea B, and
  • Idea C.

We have also determined that there are four key parameters by which we want to judge these ideas. They are…

  • Ease of Implementation (challenging to easy),
  • Investment of Money (expensive to cheap),
  • Brand Fit (erodes to strengthens), and
  • Investment of Time/Training (high to low).

Let’s plop these into a swim lane diagram. We’ll make the lefthand side the “undesirable” qualities, and the right the “desired.” The “better” ideas will score more to the right.

Next we’ll plot our three ideas where they fall in each lane.

Finally, I’ll connect the lines.

Now we can see how these how these ideas rank according to our key parameters.

  • Idea A is difficult to implement and requires a lot of training, but doesn’t require a lot of cash.
  • Idea B is the easiest to implement, but is fairly expensive.
  • Idea C is expensive, but helps build the brand and doesn’t require much training.

At a glance, I would say Idea C may be our best bet.

I know… I know what you’re thinking… this isn’t very scientific. AND if we had any more ideas or parameters to plot, it would be unclear how the ideas rank.

If the basic method isn’t robust enough for what you’re working on, I recommend these additional steps.

How It Works (Advanced Method)

Let’s allocate an Importance Score – a value between 0% and 100% – for each parameter. 0 will indicate lowest importance. 100 will indicate highest importance.

We’ll then multiply the parameter score by the importance %. (The parameter score for “ease of implementation is 1, multiplied by the importance score of 100%… and so on).

Finally, we’ll do this for each idea and see which has the highest weighed score. THIS is the idea that is our best bet.

Using this advanced method, I was able to confirm my initial assessment that Idea C would be our best bet.

With more parameters and more ideas to plot, this advanced method will provide reliable results.

Finally, I’ve added a hand-drawn version of the swim lane diagram below. I don’t want the fact I used a drawing program to make this look like a complicated exercise. You can use a white board, flip chart, or the back of a napkin and do this process in just a few minutes.

After you’ve given this a try, please share your success stories!

This article was originally published on the Marketing Profs Daily Fix blog.

August 2009

Two-By-Two Diagram: Simplifying the Complex

2011-04-14T01:50:58+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , , |

Some call it a matrix, others a two-by-two diagram. I call ’em awesome.

Two-by-twos allow you to plot complex information in a matter that allows you not only to see the relationship between two things, but also to make better judgments and decisions. I often use these during brainstorming sessions with clients as a way to filter our stacks of great ideas to the fewer, bigger, and better solutions.

How to Use Them

    1. Determine the two important qualities you want to use to measure or filter your ideas.

    For example… We want to better understand the relationship between employee sales and their customer service scores. This two-by-two would begin something like this…

    2. Next, I’ll plot where each team member according to both their sales and their service score.

    We can see Julia ranks where we hope all of our employees would be… she is making high sales and earning a high customer service score.

We can also use two-by-twos as a diagnostic tool to understand where adjustments are needed. Looking at the diagram, we can see that Winston needs help with customer service. O’Brien needs both sales and service help.

You can plot anything… other measures you may find helpful include…

Product Measurement
Which products are profitable to which customers?
PLOT: Product Profitability -and- Customer Type

Customer Service
Which aspects of our service needs to be worked on?
PLOT: Degree of Importance to Customer -and- Satisfaction Levels

Television Ads Ranking
Which commercials are connecting with customers?
PLOT: How Memorable -and- Relevance

Marketing Promotion Logistics
Which marketing promotion is easiest to implement?
PLOT: Ease of Implementation -and- Investment

Innovation Gauge
Let’s prioritize our innovative ideas.
PLOT: Remarkability of Idea -and- Difficulty to Implement

Two-by-twos are not only for the board room, try them at home…

What dinner menu to prepare for your date
Ease of Preparation -and- How Delicious

Choosing a Daycare
Compassion of Staff -and- Distance from the Office

Inexpensive Sunny Vacation Destinations
Cost of Travel to Get There -and- Number of Days with Sun

Two-by-twos are simple, effective, and versatile – they make it possible to plot nearly anything. Give them a try…

This post was once published on the Marketing Profs Daily Fix blog.

Performance Chart: Your Company, Product, Life

2017-03-01T11:56:25+00:00 Categories: grow, SandBlog|Tags: |

I love tools that are simple to use, easy to learn, but offer profound impact. The performance chart is one of those tools. They consists of a group of continua (left-to-right axis) where you plot “where you are” versus “where you want to be.”

This can be helpful to create a visual report card for you at your job, for your company, or even personal goals.

Here’s how it works…

  • (1)Make a list of important qualities (qualities important to customers, to you)
    • Style, Approach, Intelligence, Focus, Attitude, Sophistication, Gender-bias, Magic, etc.
  • (2)Add the superlatives – the low and high ends of this quality.
    • Style: modern → traditional
    • Approach: unconventional → conventional
    • Intelligence: easy → academic
    • Focus: people-centric → tech-centric
    • Attitude: excited → laid back
    • Sophistication: upscale → lowest denominator
    • Gender-bias: feminine → masculine
    • Magic: reality → fantasy
  • (3)Plot where you want to be on each continuum.
  • (4)Plot where you actually are. (This could also be your perceived status, as in… what customers, your boss, the media think).

Here’s a sample of what this could look like…


Here are just a few ways to use this tool:

  • Product/Marketing Development – Use this when creating a new product to outline your choices before it is created. Make this part of your brief and refer to it during the production process.
  • Decision Making – Before you brainstorm, create a performance chart plotting what the optimal solution should be. After you have finished brainstorming use this as a way to filter out ideas that do not rank where you need them.
  • Personal Development – Use the characteristics outlined on your company’s performance evaluation as the high end of the scale, put the opposite on the low end. Map where you feel you fall on this chart. Where do you think your boss and colleagues perceive you?

The Template

In the spirit of saving you 20-minutes time in formatting, I’ve included a blank Performance Chart template. Enjoy. Performance Chart Template [Microsoft Word document, 180kb]

I originally published this article on 13 July 2007 at the Marketing Profs Daily Fix Blog.

October 2008

Sandbox Prioritizer Now For iPhone!

2009-01-12T17:25:50+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , |

In response to popular demand, the free tool to help you get yourself in order – the Idea Sandbox Prioritizer – is now available for the iPhone! Yay!

It’s a wicked-simple tool to use, and will help you prioritize ANY list of items.

Using your iPhone, browse over to…


I’ve even created a snazzy icon for when you save the iPrioritizer to your iPhone Home Screen.

(Add iPrioritizer to you Home Screen by tapping the “+” button within your iPhone browser and “Add to Home Screen.”)

Of course, the standard web edition is still available for free at:


April 2008

Prioritizer Receives Rave Reviews

2011-04-14T01:22:47+00:00 Categories: SandBlog, solve|Tags: |

I’m pleased to share with you that Idea Sandbox Prioritizer, officially launched on Wednesday, April 23 has garnered its own fan mail.
Take a look at these comments…

Reader Reactions


“Prioritizer is a cool piece of work, congratulations! I’m one of those guys that always has a handwritten bullet to-do list on my desk. This is much better.”


“Prioritizer is AWESOME. Extremely useful! Especially for my slightly autistic, hyperactive mind!”


“The thing I liked most about your tool was it’s ease of use and simplicity, and my partner, a director of engineering at agreed. We both played with Prioritizer and liked the UI and overall design, and the existing functionality allows for quick and easy prioritization of tasks. I can see where folks might look for other features like checklist capability, schedules and “to do” list type stuff, but that might detract from your intention of a quick and dirty prioritizing tool.”


“Brilliant love it, new prioritizer quick and easy to use. Very Good for procrastinators a helpful tool all round! All good.”


“Very useful idea!”


“This is very cool and fun! Most importantly it made me realize how many things I need to do between now and 2:30! Thanks!”

Saving Your Prioritized List

If you want to save your Prioritizer results, here are the recommended steps:

If you’re using a PC:

(1) Click on “Print It” when your list is presented to you.
(2) Internet Explorer or Firefox – Save the file as a TEXT file.

If you’re using a Mac

(1) Click on “Print It” when your list is presented to you.
(2a) Save As PDF – Choose PRINT from the FILE menu and select SAVE AS PDF from the PDF pull down.
(2b) Safari/Firefox – Choose SAVE AS from the FILE menu and save it in the WEB ARCHIVE format.

Thank you for taking the time to provide feedback!