IKEA and Priority Setting
In Leadership training, we often do a priority setting exercise where leaders have to help their team to put a list of objects “in order of importance”. In the debrief, I make an analogy with the way people go shopping at IKEA. Yesterday I was at IKEA… I won’t say how it went 😦 …I’ll just share the analogy…
There are 2 types of IKEA shopper…
- The first goes to IKEA with a specific mission. She knows what she wants (a bed) and upon arrival, moves quickly, confidently and economically towards the bed section. Faced with 20 beds to choose from, she consults her specifications and chooses the one that best responds to her needs. In the case that 2 or more beds perfectly respond, she will have to make a decision and choose.. or re-visit her criteria to better define her needs. This shopper leaves with the bed she needs and rarely much more.
- The second goes to IKEA with no specific mission. Upon arrival, she wanders around looking at different things asking “I wonder what I could use this for?” or thinking “That could be nice in the living room…”. On the off-chance that she might think “I’ll buy a bed” she will be faced with 20 beds to choose from and no specific criteria. Quite possibly, this shopper leaves with a bed, although it may not be perfect. Quite certainly, she will leave with many other things.
For me, an analogy can be drawn with the way people (do not) set priorities..
- Faced with an inbox of “things to do”, the first type will ask “What is my mission?” and “What are my specifications?” in order to decide which actions best suit her needs and therefore what should be done. Things are classified quickly and easily and the right work gets done, whilst other “useless” things are left behind.
- The second type of person will spend time wondering/wandering through the list of potential actions with no real purpose, picking things up, playing with them a little, maybe changing to other actions, with no direction. Things are not classified and sometimes the wrong work gets done or “real priorities” are missed.
In leadership training, participants are given a list of objects to prioritise “in order of importance”, given their situation. There are 2 major approaches:
- The first start by defining their mission, creating strategic action and then assessing the objects in function of their needs. They ask “How will this help us to achieve our mission?”
- The second start by looking at the objects, asking “What could we use this for?”
What do you think is the best approach?
- It seems obvious to me that type 1 is more organised, strategic and structured. They tend to be more efficient in doing what they set out to do. They prioritise things in terms of relevance to mission and strategy and feel comfortable that everything has been well assessed. I compare them to the “J” of MBTI and I myself like this approach. I am just like that.
- Type 2 seems to me less effective and things certainly take more time. In that sense, they are less efficient in relationship to their (apparently non-existant) mission. They don’t prioritise in terms of strategy and sometimes end up carrying a lot of stuff out of IKEA on their shopping trolley. This doesn’t fit my MBTI “J”.
…but is it so obviously bad to be Type 2? Aren’t these the people who find new and interesting creative useful approaches to things? Aren’t they the ones who see opportunities where the others do not, because of their “wider vision”? Are they more flexible? Does their “no-mind-spirit” help them?
Decide for yourself…
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