Facilitator Tool: Payoff Matrix

Posted by Kristin Arnold on February 7, 2024

Payoff Matrix

Just because you brainstormed a bunch of good ideas doesn’t mean they are ALL good ideas! One facilitator tool I use to evaluate the worthiness of ideas is the payoff matrix.

The Payoff Matrix model is a fairly simple 2×2 matrix:

  1. Draw the “x” axis from left to right with the left as “low” and the right side is “high.” This signifies the level of effort.
  2. Draw the “y” axis from top to bottom with the bottom as “low” and the top is “high.” This signifies the amount of payoff derived from the successful completion of the idea.
  1. Place your ideas (hopefully, they are on stickie notes!) at the appropriate place within the box.
  2. After all the ideas are on the matrix, draw a line halfway between the axis so that you have created four boxes. Label the boxes:
    • High Payoff, High Effort = Special Effort
    • High Payoff, Low Effort = Business Opportunity
    • Low Payoff, Low Effort = Quick Win
    • Low Payoff, High Effort = Waste of Time!
  1. Discuss your results.

The payoff matrix allows you to take your best ideas and see how you might strategize the timing of the ideas:

  • Obviously, you want to delete your time wasters!
  • As far as special efforts go, I suggest just picking up one at a time. Start with one, and when it gets close to being finished, start working on the other special efforts.
  • Perhaps you’ll want to start with knocking off the quick wins to show the organization that you heard their input and are making visible changes.
  • Or you can focus on the business opportunities, strategizing which ones to start with.

I’m a big fan of using the payoff matrix to help discover the best ideas and strategize when we should focus on each idea.

Related Articles:

The Role of the Meeting Facilitator

How to Brainstorm a List at Your Next Meeting

Try this Process for High-stakes Decision-making

KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.

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