4 Things™ ModelLeaders with responsibility for technology have some of the hardest executive jobs. They have to deal with so much change, both from an ever advancing technical perspective and from internal and external needs and opportunities. The ability to prioritize is essential. However, prioritizing in a way that maximizes the value of their technology investments and makes sense to stakeholders is no easy task. Here’s one approach based on Thought Ensemble’s 4 Things™ model that you can consider.

We’ve all seen the prioritization exercise that uses a 2×2 matrix to measure the impact of an initiative against the effort or ability required to implement it. It’s simple and reasonably effective, but confusion can arise from the definition of “impact” and “effort”. I’ve also seen situations where folks have spent vast amounts of time going through a huge list of initiatives, marking each with high, medium, or low after a lengthy discussion. It’s painful. This is where the 4 Things model can help.

Typically, we use the 4 Things model to assess technology organizations and recommend ways they can get better alignment between each of the four areas: Strategy, Organization, Technology, and DeliveryMethods. With better alignment comes better results and value from the technology investment. You can also use this model to derive a better definition of “impact” and “ability”.


An initiative has high impact if it advances the strategy of the business. Technology investments are intended to help your business succeed, so if they don’t fit within the business strategy they should be avoided. This is a business where making money is important too, so considerations around expected revenue are naturally embedded into this measure. It can, however, be extremely difficult to predict the revenue from a new, truly innovative idea. Keep this in mind so you don’t inadvertently squash your next big idea. See my earlier post on this topic for more information.


The ability of the organization to successfully implement an initiative depends on the remaining three pieces of the 4 Things model: Organization, Technology, and Delivery Methods. Does your organization have enough people with the right skills to do the work? Do you have the right technology in place to support the initiative? Are your processes and delivery methods efficient and effective enough to ensure a successful implementation? The more certain you are of these things, the better your ability to be successful.

For more information on the 4 Things model, be sure to check out the recent blog posts from two of my colleagues, Russ Pearlman and Jim Smelley, as well as Jim and Lisa Jasper’s book Reboot.