June 08, 2018

Four Filtering Layers for Vetting Initiative Ideas

Lorren Riggle

Lorren Riggle
Business Implementation, Optimization, Operations Consultant/Lorren Riggle & Associates, LLC

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Filtering business improvement ideas is probably something you already do as a management executive. Ideas come to you from every corner of your organization. Topics can range from new products, services, features, capital equipment purchases, asset management, personnel changes, investments, and the list goes on. The larger your responsibilities the more ideas you can expect to receive.  But, too often, filtering these ideas happens without a conscious structure or strategy.

As a business management consultant, I have developed a filtering system that allows me to triage ideas for merit and compare them to plans and strategies already in motion. As part of my deliverables, I share and illustrate this system with clients who are looking to optimize their business processes. The system works well for business, but I have found that it can also be successfully applied to personal decision making.

This filter works from top down and is designed with that priority in mind. At any filter point an idea can be failed or passed based on its own merit. The discovery process can expose requirements to implement an idea that are initially perceived as negative. Increased cost of doing business would be just one example.  But, look again. Change in business practice such as using online delivery, implementing a staff reduction, and workflow redesign could add value to the overall initiative and turn a negative into a positive.

Filter 1.  Mission, Vision, and Values – Does the suggested idea fall within the stated mission, vision, and values of the group?

Again, whether personally or professionally, does the suggestion meet any or all of the criteria of your groups' mission statement, the vision of the group, and/or the values by which you operate? Has your organization even established such a statement? If not, this is the time to refine an existing statement or to create and publish one. Once published, those offering ideas can complete their due diligence by vetting the suggestion against the mission statement. Filtering against the mission statement will help individuals bring more qualified and informed suggestions. Communication – and the quality of future offerings – can be improved by running an idea through the filter with the individual who has suggested it to discuss why it has passed or failed this first litmus test.

Filter 2.  Safety – Does the recommendation meet all safety requirements?

In order to be implemented and maintained does the recommendation meet all safety requirements?  Is there any risk of physical injury because of the suggestion? Safety may not seem to be an initial concern but, with further inquiry, you may find that stress, physical workload, or maintenance could create a hazard that was previously unseen.

Filter 3.  Cost - Does the idea fall within the present financial budget plan?

Can an initiative be implemented within the current budget, would it require additional funding, or should it be discarded because of cost or lack of ROI? Does the idea cross over financial periods or entities? All facets of an initiative should be considered. Keep the “idea to conception” and all of the steps in-between in mind.

Filter 4.  Urgency – What is the real urgency?

After an idea has passed the first three filter layers, a decision about urgency needs to be addressed. What is the expected timeline of when an idea could be normally deployed? Does it need to be expedited, fall within present parameters, or should it be delayed?

Many of these filter layers can be generalized with high-level overviews. You may find that, with the initial pass, the idea completes all the filter layers. But, as you begin to dive deep or break it down into manageable pieces, something clogs the process. So, I would suggest, if an idea passes through too quickly or easily, take a second and deeper look before applying many resources to it.

Don’t be surprised if an idea suggested by a coworker, shop laborer, or layperson offers insight that was not previously considered. They often are the front-line operators with the greatest exposure and can have significant time or money saving ideas. I have even heard of a reward award for the best idea of the year. Be sure the door of communication is available for everyone to share with executive management openly and freely.

So, the next time someone comes to you and says, “Wouldn’t it be a good idea if . . . .” you can bring clarity to the decision-making process by running the idea through the filter of: does it fit our mission, is it safe, is it cost-effective, and is it urgent.

Comments? You can contact me directly via my AdvisoryCloud profile.

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