PriorityPath® : A Three-Phase, Integrated Analytical Process

Phase I: Confirming Directions

Confirming Directions begins with Orientation.  Analysts meet with a project Steering Committee chosen by the organization to coordinate project activities.  Members of the Steering Committee are chosen on the basis of knowledge of and responsibility for resolving the issues that will be examined in the project.  Project analysts work closely with the Steering Committee to ensure that the assessment program is properly monitored and course corrections are made throughout the assessment period to maintain focus.  Individuals not already familiar with the PriorityPath® process are given an orientation to the underlying philosophy and to the procedures that will be followed.

During orientation, a mission statement to guide the project will be formulated.  It will be consistent with the Mission, Vision, Goals and Objectives of the organization and issues under examination.  This project mission statement will be considered, edited and revised until the wording reflects precisely the intent of the organization.  The Priority Systems® , analysts, together with the Steering Committee, will construct a Mission Diagram -- a statement of Direction which reflects the functions and structures that the organization judges to be necessary to accomplish the mission.

The Mission Diagram will be referred to throughout the project.  This helps to prevent participants from diverting attention away from the organization's purposes for the project and for the organization.


Phase II -- Determining Critical Needs

Data consisting of factors that have the potential to inhibit the mission will then be gathered in interviews and meetings with important and knowledgeable stakeholders selected by the Steering Committee.  These project participants will be asked a number of questions, including the following:

  • What suggestions or recommendations do you have for ensuring that the mission will be accomplished?
  • What are the risks, problems and critical concerns that must be resolved in order to accomplish the mission?
  • What potential problems may be encountered as action is taken to try to accomplish the mission?

The interviews and meetings furnish the main body of data for the analysis of issues raised in the project.  The analysts will prepare a Validation Diagram that contains all of the factors thought by participants to be essential.  The information gathered in interviews and meetings if kept confidential to protect individual interests and ensure completeness of the data gathered.  These factors will be placed into a Validation Diagram that lists, in cause/effect or associational sequences, the contextual relationships between and among issues.

The identification of issues will be completed as project participants review the Validation Diagram to determine if all significant actual and potential risk factors have been identified.  The validation process ensures that the factors are expressed in language that communicates clearly and accurately and are arranged in an appropriate, logical sequences showing clear cause and effect relationships.  New data is usually added during the validation process to accommodate the new insights that participants may have as they examine the information contributed by others.  The additions, changes, and editorial corrections suggested during validation will be incorporated into the documents used in subsequent phases of the project.

At this juncture, considerable information will be available to the Steering Committee.  Some of the issues that appear on the diagrams may have such urgent or important consequences that immediate action is taken.  Many of the factors, however, are usually of uncertain significance, so that the process of determining the relative degree of severity of impact of each factor from the varying perspectives of participating groups becomes important.  The ensuing procedures ensure accomplishment of this goal.

A cross section of those who participate in the information-gathering activities now add their judgments about the severity of the factors that will have been identified.  Quantification Documents (Rating Booklets) and Rating Instruments for use on the Internet are prepared using the validated data described above. Completing the Quantification Document or Internet Rating Instrument requires four judgments using an easy-to-use scale.  These judgments are as follows:

    1. How important is each issue to accomplishing the mission?
    2. How familiar are you with the issue in making the rating?
    3. How frequently does the issue occur?
    4. How easy is it to fix or avoid the issue if it should it materialize?

There is a demonstration of the Internet Rating System on the Internet.  If you would like to access this demonstration, please contact Priority Systems® .   

These judgments are computer-analyzed to determine a probability for each issue, for each group of participants and for key individual participants.  Calculating these probabilities facilitates rank ordering according to degree of severity of impact of every factor in the analysis.  The computer analysis not only considers each issue separately but also computes the interrelationships among related factors.  These interrelationship calculations become important in describing situations where two seemingly innocent issues combine to cause significant actual or potential problems.

The probabilities for each risk factor are reported in four basic formats.  The first is a Strategic Event Value (SEV) Report Document that identifies the high priority factors and reports the probability of  factors becoming critical.  These probabilities represent the combined interactions of all participants and are presented for the total group of participants, for each subgroup that is of interest to the Steering Committee and for selected individuals.  The second format is an SEV Diagram that contains a graphic portrayal of the same information contained in the SEV report described above.  It features bolded, highlighted, color-coded indicators whereby the similarities and differences in judgments between and among participating groups and individuals can be read directly.  The third format is the Strategic Path Diagram which lists in rank order of importance the strategic paths for each group, subgroup and selected individuals that participate in the analysis.  This enables participants to observe the clusters of issues, from first to tenth or beyond, that participants believe to be the most critical needs of the organization.  The fourth format is the Narrative Report that summarizes the procedures, findings and results of the project.

It is important to note that in all the reports, regardless of format, all of the high risk factors are identified.  Furthermore, in most cases the analysis will determine the potential sequences or the cause and effect relationships among the high priority factors.

The priorities of each participating group will be presented.  In addition, the priorities of key executives will also be presented so that the similarities and differences in judgments about critical factors can be examined and reconciled.  This provides executives with precise data upon which decisions about actions needed to align the organization's use of resources and energy with intended directions can be made.

Samples of project materials are available for inspection upon request.


Phase Three -- Reconciliation of Directions with Critical Needs

Taking appropriate action to resolve the high priority risk factors is the final step in the PriorityPath® process.  This begins as participants examine the high priority factors that are exposed as a result of the analysis.  As priorities are known, categories of concern are recognized and discussion of possible action is held among decision makers.  Many clients use their employees and appropriate external groups such as members of the public, business leaders, and associations of various kinds to assist in resolution of the high priority risk factors.  This is frequently accomplished through the use of quality action teams.  We have developed materials and procedures which are consistent with leading research into best means of effecting the specific remedial activities that may be needed to resolve the high priority risk factors that are identified through the analysis.  The implementation phase will enhance the skills of participants so they will be more effective when they are involved in assisting Management to improve achievement throughout the organization.

Depending upon availability of participants, projects can be completed in as few as six weeks and as long as ten weeks.  Costs are calculated on the basis of number of participants plus a modest computer processing fee.


Initiating the Process

Participants in a PriorityPath® program are:

  1. A Steering Committee OR a Project Overseer.
    The Steering Committee members will be a small committee consisting of one or two representatives from each of the stakeholder groups that participate.  They will oversee the PriorityPath® program.  Ideally, the Steering Committee will not exceed seven to nine members.  Occasionally, a client will prefer not to use a committee but will assign a project overseer to be responsible for the analysis.
  2. Participants are drawn from stakeholder groups.
    The participants should be chosen from internal and external (when appropriate) stakeholder groups who are fully conversant with the issue(s) to be addressed in the analysis.  In order to preserve statistical integrity, there should be at least five to seven participants from each group.  Where groups are large, it is essential that a sufficiently large sample be chosen to represent all points of view that are held by members within the entire group.  Participants will supply data in interviews with Priority Systems® , analysts and in meetings, help edit the data base and make judgments about the relative severity of the issues that emerge.

The time commitments involved are:

  1. The time commitment for the Steering Committee is as follows:
    • Orientation Meeting - Two hours
    • Interviews - Forty-five minutes to one hour each
    • Editing the Data base - One hour
    • Rating - Usually two to three hours, depending on the size of the data base
    • Receiving Reports - Two hours
    • Initiating Action As much as necessary -- usually within the structure of ongoing activities
  2. The time commitment for Participants is as follows:
    • Orientation Meeting - One hour
    • Interviews - Forty-five minutes to one hour each
    • Editing the Data base - One hour
    • Rating - Usually two to three hours, depending on the size of the data base
    • Receiving Reports - One hour
    • Initiating Action As much as necessary -- usually this consists of working on Action Teams to address findings
  3. This time is spread over the length of the project, usually six to ten weeks, in an effort to avoid unnecessary intrusions into the regular work schedules of the participants.