The Impact Matrix – An Application of the 2×2 Matrix Tool

I offer you this little story as an example of sorting performance-based “instructional and informational” content of importance, from content that is not. Perhaps it will give you ideas on how to work collaboratively with your customers and stakeholders in a similar situation.

The Project
In the mid-1980s I was working with a team of engineers from an aluminum company’s headquarters staff and their Labs, to put together an 80-hour course on Flat Rolled Process Technology for their plant engineers – who typically only worked on, and therefore understood well, “their part” of the process…of the big picture.

This was a key technology for most all of their manufactured products. The process was complex, fast, and mechanical – and needed to be “tended to” all most all of the time in order to produce optimum product.

A Project Steering Team chair assembled the key stakeholders and met with me
to define the target audience, discuss and determine the business goals for the
program, and then agree to some macro-learning objectives. Then they identified
12 SME instructors from the Labs for me to work with to build the content for a
pilot-test delivery that they wanted in a hurry.

Moving From Education to performance-based Training
The Project Steering Team agreed with me when near the end of the meeting, I
postulated that there was at least 800 hours of content, if not more, to boil
down to the 80 hours.

And that it would be darn difficult to keep this an “all engaging” learning
experience versus “a boring” content dump. And it would be difficult to keep the
development, reviews and updating of the 12 Lessons “on time”…and in-time
for the planned delivery date for that first pilot session.

They agreed. But time was up. The meeting adjourned.

I was worried that this was going to turn into a real fiasco. I was thinking as
quickly on my feet as my mind would go when it struck me. Someone’s comment
at an ISPI (then NSPI) conference a month or so prior, about the
simplistic beauty and utility and scale-ability of the 2×2 matrix.

The Strategy
I decided to adapt that concept for my own needs, which were to
boil down 800 hours of content (or more!) into a meaningful 80
and then help me to deal with all of the egos of the Labs experts in
trying to contain their content lengths to the “allocations.”

I asked my client in our planned post-meeting meeting to help me list the
major steps in the flat rolled process. This was easy. This was a familiar
listing or model in the company. There were 7. Those were listed horizontally
across the top

Next we listed the key characteristics, the metrics/measures of “flat rolled
products.” This was more difficult. It was early in the quality game and this
had not been done yet with enough involvement to insure its survival from the
NIHS (not invented here syndrome).

There were 5. I then explained to him that I intended to matrix those 5 measures
against the 7 major phases of the “flat rolled process” that he’d already
given me. Those were listed vertically on the left side of my blank sheet hand
drawn 7×5 matrix.

In the cells of this new matrix that I started calling an “Impact Matrix” so as to
define the contents I was looking for – I wanted him to put an H for high, M for
medium, L for low, and zero for no…as in the “impact potential” of the
process step to each key measure/metric of the final product.

I explained that this was the only thing I could think of that I could use to
focus his engineering instructor team of SMEs, and keep them to their
allocate time, based on how well their content supported the high impact
areas of the matrix.

If they were not talking about an “H” area they should only
do it quickly AND save the time for those more important intersections.

He was already ahead of me on its use for that purpose. We completed that task and began
to re-allocate time to each of the 12 instructors. And then he used it again for
another purpose the very next day.

The Outcomes
My client went to the Labs director the next day to present this simple matrix.

What was going to work for me to allocate classroom time, to control content
amounts and depths, and to inevitably trim-back content from some or many
of the 12 SMEs – who would always try to fit their 10 pounds in 5 pound bags
– because their topics were most important to them !!! – was going to work to
allocate other resources to other efforts elsewhere in their Enterprise.

I was told later that the project priorities of the Labs had changed when everyone
began to reflect on where the budget was currently allocated versus the
potential impact of those efforts to the ultimate end results. Their potential
impact and other business factors of course.

It was pretty cool seeing it become a central, core icon with them later, due to
its repeated use in the 80 hour program. It was used at the beginning of
every Lesson as an “advanced organizer” by each member of the Instructor
Team as they “positioned” what they were about to talk about.

The ROI?
I don’t know what it was in dollars, but I wish I did. But beyond the probable dollar returns there were many communications and building shared understanding benefits that had impact in many of the day to day and longer term challenges at both the plants and back at the labs.

The simple visual, the 2×2 matrix – expanded with known variables – allowed them to all
more easily “see” and “discuss” and “rethink” their process and their priorities from an Impact Perspective. A performance impact perspective.

The picture was indeed worth many words! And more.

It also helped me to control a herd of expert engineering cats who were to
share their expertise with the rest of the company’s engineering staffs from
all of the plants using Flat Rolled Process Technology , who were brought in to learn one of the key, complex technologies of the company!


Guy W. Wallace

Certified Performance Technologist

guy.wallace @

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One comment on “The Impact Matrix – An Application of the 2×2 Matrix Tool

  1. Pingback: Beware the SME Interview/Observation: Love your SME – But Don’t Trust Them 1 on 1. | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

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