Principle: How to Prioritize Your Top Ten Value Objectives

Nov 20, 2018

 by Tom Gilb & Kai Gilb

"It is sufficient to initially focus on
up-to-ten most critical value objectives
at any given level of responsibility."


How to quickly get your project focussed on the essential priorities,
so ‘even your managers’, and the entire technical team understand what all the ‘technical’ requirements are.

There are usually far more than 10 planned system attributes that we value, which some stakeholders would like to improve.

But if we identify, and work on, 100 or more things at the same time, we will likely lose focus on the most-critical 10 things. The top 10 will not probably be achieved early, if ever.

We believe and practice, that any given level of responsibility (project manager, PO, CTO, IT Architect - for example) should consciously limit themselves to a handful (or 2 handfuls) of the most-critical value objectives, initially.

When these values are delivered, or at least safely delegated to others, or on their way to being reached initially, and then be scaled up: then it is time to turn to the next set of ‘value objectives’ priorities (priority number 11 to 20 if you like). 



“In business, the idea of measuring what you are doing, picking the measurements that count like customer satisfaction and performance... you thrive on that.”
Bill Gates (1955 - ) 


The Six Stages of ‘Critical Value Objectives’ Development

1. Top ten nice-sounding names selection, by a stakeholder team

2. Re-prioritize value objectives based on clearer quantified value definitions

3. Re-prioritize based on the ‘costs of the strategies’ needed to reach desired levels of quantified value.

Some additional levels of the process of ‘prioritization of value objectives’ can be characterized as:

4. Balancing the demands of other high-priority value objectives against anyone value objective in particular. This is the ‘competition for limited resources’ to reach desired levels. If you had unlimited resources, and you do not have them of course, you could then have ‘all values’, at ‘perfect’ levels.

5. Feedback from pilots or trial installations of chosen strategies, and consequent re-prioritization of the value objectives, when ‘real costs’ and ‘real levels of effect’ on value objectives are actually measured.

6. Changes in priorities due to the emergence of either ‘new value objectives’, or of ‘dramatically new cost-effective strategies’. Before, and even well after, initial deployment of the system planned.


Prioritization Process.

It is more complex than just assigning a priority once. It needs to be carefully evolved based on feedback, and balanced consideration of all critical value objectives.

Back to the Team Process: the first day of finding the top ten value objectives.
Three people might be working, most of the first day, on three of the 10 value objectives for example. Defining them better with Scales, Past levels, Tolerable levels, Goal levels, and multidimensional conditions.

The collective stakeholder team would aim to mutually present, collate, and discuss their more-detailed value objectives to each other, during the last remaining hour, before an ‘end of day presentation’ to the Boss (10 to 30 minutes), or to another significant stakeholder.


Top 10 Value objectives Quantified On 1 Page in 1 Day.

We normally finish, in 1 day, with the ‘top ten value objectives quantified’, on a single page. We might have to edit just the essentials from the team’s more-detailed specifications to get things down to a single page.

This 'all quantified on 1 page’ achievement is fairly dramatic for those who experience it for the first time.

People who have never seen well-articulated value objectives at all, let alone reasonably well-quantified value objectives, are impressed. Powerful and simple.

One-page quantified value objectives are done predictably by design, in a single day, and presented on a single page or projector image.

We sometimes enjoy telling people in advance that we are going to quantify all critical value objectives on a page, in a day. Most people think we are exaggerating.

But they themselves always manage to do it. It is a matter of constrained prioritized discipline.

Some corporate projects, at some of our clients, drag on with expensive management meetings through months of trying to agree on value objectives, without achieving such clarity and decision.

This quantified, well-defined set of critical value objectives is the essential 'core' of any project or any plan. Sharp and simple.

Teams work in parallel, most of the day, to get enough time in that single day, to handle all 10 value objectives reasonably well.



Scale: % of trades per day, where the calculated economic difference between OUR CO. and Marketplace/Clients, is less than “1 Yen”(or equivalent). 

Past [April 20xx] 10%.
Goal [Dec. 20xy] 100%.
From a Real London Bank Example of 1 value objective done on 1st. day. OUR CO and xx are artificial masks. See the previous blog for 9 more examples.


This is a simplified example of another client’s ‘one page of value objectives’, which might be good enough for certain presentations and purposes. But not detailed enough for other purposes.


Practical Tip

  1. Take a look at your current project.
  2. Select a maximum of ten critical value objectives, from your point of view.
  3. What do you guess would happen, if you managed to achieve all of those, halfway through your project budget, or halfway to your deadline?
    • Because that is a real possibility, according to our experience, if you focus on a few well-defined value objectives, and prioritize high-value deliveries early.


Policy: Top-Ten Critical Value objectives

  • The first day of any project or major effort,
    • we will decide, for the moment,
    • on the top-10 most-critical value objectives: and
    • quantify them, on a single page,
    • for responsible management approval.


Here are some questions we can discuss and try to answer in the forum below. We are looking forward to hearing about your experiences.

  1. Have you ever experienced ‘doing’ or ‘being taught' to ‘do the top 10 value objectives’, or KPIs, or ‘requirements? What was the result?
  2. Can you imagine and specify one example of the top 10 improvement value objectives that cannot be expressed quantitatively (with a quantification scale defined)? Tell us what you think that, unquantifiable improvement value objective, might be. 
  3. If we do define the top 10 critical value objectives, then; is it useful to call all more detailed specification, that supports them, ‘solutions’ - to meet the top 10?
  4. Could this ‘solution’ set, for the top 10, be allowed to ‘emerge’ gradually, sprint by sprint, as needed? And gradually be validated in terms of the levels of the top 10 achieved as a result? Or do we need to define them all up front?
  5. Is this, top 10 in a day, a rapid way to start a project, and to get clear, based on quantification, agreement, by the ‘powers that be’, that these are the main purposes of the project?


Check out our Online Course for Quantifying Outcome Values and more

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