IAF Methods

Donut Priortization

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This method uses a "donut" image for prioritizing tasks.

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To priortise tasks into three levels and to create a timeline for a quarter. Additional quarterly phases would hold items with a lower priority.


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  • Flipchart paper, markers and large post-its



Time needed: One to three hours depending on the number of items

Pre-Work Required: The flipchart paper should be taped together to form a square shape. A large donut is drawn in the center of the square. Post-its are prepared with each item to be prioritized.


1. Paper a wall and draw a big donut. The number of items that can reasonably be considered critical determines the size of the center of the donut.

2. Make a post-it note for each item up for consideration, and put all of the post-its on the donut itself.

3. The center of the donut means, "There's no point in doing anything at all if we can't do these." The area outside the donut means "we can't/won't do these at this time", perhaps because of sequencing issues (prerequisites), budget, feasibility... The donut itself means, "These are all be great things to do if and when we can."

4. Open up the discussion to moving items inside or outside the ring.

5. Test every item going into the center, "Do we HAVE to do it right now?" You may have to redefine some items into workable blocks.

6. You should end up with a very workable set of absolute requirements. The fact that the items on the ring are desirable seems to make it easier for people to leave things there.

7. Next, put up some more paper. Take the items on the donut and have the group place them on the second sheet of paper in a rough timeline. They should be able to group less critical items into logical units of work, and they should be able to describe/name each of the subsequent groupings. They will also likely identify a number of items that are relatively cheap and easy and might as well be done with the first round --- but they should remain as "second tier" items, with the understanding that we want to do everything in the second tier, but we can delay any of those for time, budget, or any other issues.

8. A real key to this is that you don't have to argue the validity of every item. You respect the importance of everything on the wall, even those that won't make the first cut. And you open up the possibility of managing the amount of work as the group moves forward.

9. The group will leave the session with a first phase and a sense of what the next phases will be based around. They should expect to repeat the exercise periodically, because things change --- make sure they don't think they are truly defining the next 5 phases, only setting a long-range direction.


Usual or Expected Outcomes: Shared implementation plan, sense that all perspectives have been discussed, and a timeline reflecting priorities of actions.


Source: Mary Jackson at maryjackson@pdq.net

Derived from: unknown

History of Development: unknown

Comments (2) ( 4.0  avg / 1 ratings)

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  • The visual allows all things to stay on the wall, reducing the feeling of throwing away ideas. The discussion about moving the items is a bit messy, and will need some facilitator skill.

    over 3 years ago
  • Could add some specific questions to help decide the priorities -- which the group is most passionate about, which are critical, which would be easiest, etc.

    over 2 years ago