October 2009

Swim Lane Diagram:
Dive Into Complex Decision-Making

2017-03-01T11:56:20-04:00 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

2011-04-14T01:50:58-04:00 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.