Teams aligned on the same priorities accomplish much more than those that aren’t.
The idea is simple. Imagine how much further a team pulling a cart from one direction will get than a team pulling the same cart from different angles. But in practice, alignment can be difficult.
As the list of projects grows, so does the number of potential ways to move forward. Using this simple technique, you can quickly get your team headed toward the same destination.
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Align Your Team Priorities With “Keep, Kill, Combine”
Called “Keep, Kill, Combine,” this alignment tool comes from the book, Traction, by Gino Wickman, and we use it often here at HR Collaborative. (Thanks to our friends at Nexus Business Solutions for introducing it to us!)
“Keep, Kill, Combine” is a lightweight elimination technique that helps whittle down a laundry list of options and get buy-in at the same time.
The “Keep, Kill, Combine” Process
1. Gather your team together. If possible, host the meeting in a physical location because it allows for more interaction and team unity. Use a room with a large whiteboard or butcher paper, so people can easily see what you’re writing.
2. Establish parameters. Let the team know what the deadline is for accomplishing these projects, and set a limit for how many ideas will make the cut. Aim for no more than five priorities in a given period. Any more and the list can become unmanageable.
3. List all of your potential projects or tasks. You can compile this list ahead of time or create it as a brainstorming session to start the meeting. If brainstorming, encourage the team to think outside of the box and let them know all ideas are welcome at this stage.
4. Keep, Kill, Combine. For each idea on the list, go around the room and ask each person, “Keep, Kill, or Combine?” Each answer should be only one of those three options. As you go around the room, note votes next to the idea. You can do this with a checkmark for “Keep,” a minus sign for “Kill,” and a plus sign for “Combine” (or whatever system works for you).
5. Categorize the obvious. If an idea receives a majority of votes in one of the three categories, mark it as such. For any “Combine” ideas, circle which ones you plan to merge.
6. Discuss split votes. Allow each side to explain their reasoning. But don’t belabor an idea. If the team can’t reach consensus quickly, it’s unlikely they’ll align when working on it. Set the idea aside.
7. Reassess the list. If you’ve narrowed the list down to the limit you set at the start of the meeting, then move on to the next step. If not, move the items with the most “Keep” votes to the top, and go through another round of “Keep, Kill, Combine.” Continue until you are at or under your limit.
8. Recap for your team. In the session, by reviewing the “Keep” list with your team. Invite questions or thoughts. Everyone should leave feeling confident in their role for each priority.
9. Capture the list and make it visible. Keeping these priorities at the forefront of your team’s attention (and viewable by other key stakeholders) will help everyone pointed in the right direction. Also, hold on to your list of “Kill” items. Now might not be the right time, but next time might.
The “Keep, Kill, Combine” method is a valuable tool for a variety of scenarios. Not only is it helpful for aligning your team priorities, but you can also use it for narrowing down almost any list of options.
Whether you’re developing company values, setting your daily to-do tasks, or planning the key projects for the next quarter, this quick-hit elimination technique helps tap into a valuable decision-making tool: your gut instincts.
Happy prioritizing and keep on collaborating!