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The 2x2 matrix is a visual prioritization framework to help professionals identify which projects to work on. It is also known as the Impact Effort Matrix. This framework makes use of a matrix with four quadrants to determine the urgency of the project at hand. It is a graph of the impact of a project vs the amount of effort required to do it.
Apart from the 2x2 matrix and the Impact Effort Matrix, this framework also has some other names. Action Priority Matrix, Impact Matrix, Effort matrix are some examples. As the names suggest, teams make use of this as a tool to prioritize projects, ideas, etc.
Now that we know the basics, let's understand what exactly the tool is and how it's used by teams to prioritize.
The below figure shows the Impact Effort or 2x2 matrix. As you can see, it's a matrix of the 'Impact' on the Y-axis (vertical) and the 'Effort' on the X-axis (horizontal).
The matrix is divided into 4 quadrants and each of these is often called a '4 square.' Based on their position, the squares in the matrix are labeled as High or Low Impact and High or Low Effort.
Essentially, the 4 squares, in a clockwise order starting from the top left are usually as follows:
These four quadrants are also named as Quick wins, Major projects, Time wasters (or thankless tasks) and Fill ins, respectively from 1 to 4 above. These names itself may show the reason for this, but let's understand the details.
Quick wins (Low effort, High impact)
These are the activities which produce the best returns for the amount of effort put into them. They are considered to be very important and fundamental to the success of the company. Common advice is to take these tasks up first and focus more on them.
Major projects (High effort, High impact)
The activities in this category are those which give valuable long-term returns. They are, however, high impact activities in nature and could take a considerable amount of time to do. It can happen that the team focuses on major projects and loses out on quick wins in the process.
Time wasters/ Thankless tasks (High effort, Low impact)
As the name suggests, these are activities which are time consuming in nature. Resources used in these would have been better spent on some other tasks. Since they can hinder the team from working on more important tasks, it's advised to avoid these.
Fill ins (Low effort, Low impact)
The last category, tasks which take low effort but are also low impact, is called the Fill ins. These are mostly everyday tasks and are often unimportant. Teams take these up only if they have extra time and nothing better to focus on at the moment.
The following steps are a general idea of what goes into building the 2x2 matrix:
The Impact Effort matrix finds uses at various scales. It can be used as a personal prioritization tool and is also quite often used across industries.