Using Quick ROI (or PACE) to Prioritize New Ideas

Erika Flora
Written by Erika Flora

Of all the things organizations struggle with, a lack of great ideas for new initiatives, projects, programs, etc. doesn’t tend to be one of them. What they do tend to struggle with, however, is finding enough hours in the day to bring all those great ideas to fruition. It seems like our list of great ideas grows every day and, not unlike hoarders, we hesitate to get rid of anything (But what if we decide to do it some day!?). And thus, we’re crushed under the weight of our great ideas, a lot of initiatives get kicked off, but very few completed. You’re never going to believe this, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Quick ROI, also called PACE, is a leadership technique that can help any team prioritize those great ideas, and (finally) get rid of the stuff that shouldn’t have been on the list in the first place. PACE stands for Prioritize, Accept, Consider, and Eliminate. It’s an easy way to take a large list of initiatives (if you’re practicing Scrum, you might call them Product Backlog Items, or PBIs for short) and prioritize (or “groom” in Scrum speak) them in under an hour. Here are the broad strokes:

  • Print all of your items onto small strips of paper, or write them on index cards, and set them out on a large conference table. Create an X and Y axis (painters tape works well for this).
  • Have your leadership team (the business voice, essentially) arrange items along the X/horizontal axis, denoting value.
  • Then, have those who can speak to the technical voice arrange items on the Y/vertical axis, denoting cost (size, complexity, etc.).
  • The only two rules are 1. You have to fill the space, and 2. You cannot move items along an axis that you are not assessing (for example, the technical voices cannot move items from left to right).
  • Roughly divide the items into PACE areas (as shown below). It doesn’t have to be exact. What you’re trying to do here is put items into general buckets. If you need to move an idea, initiative, or PBI to a neighboring area, you certainly can and should.
Quick ROI (PACE)

Et voila! You’ve completed the Quick ROI / PACE exercise and have your initiatives well organized! Now what?


These are the initiatives you’ve dubbed first priority. Time to get moving!


These are your second priority initiatives, to be tackled when the first tier items are complete.


These are you maybe items. Hang onto them but don’t worry about moving on them right away.


These initiatives didn’t make the cut. Bid them adieu.

There’s a saying, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” (from @MichaelEPorter). This exercise gives you the ability to define that “what not to do”, which is a gift to your team. If you need to say final goodbyes (hugs and kisses, love you) to your Eliminate items, then do so. Your angst will be lessened, and your load will be lightened.

A huge thank you to Eric Willeke for introducing me to the PACE chart.

Now let's get those priorities stored and tracked!

Our free CSI Register template is just the place.
Download the template

Originally published October 10 2018, updated December 12 2019