The Most Versatile Planning Technique Ever: 3 Lists

Do more, do less, keep doing.  That’s it: three simple lists.

This technique is elegance itself.  You can use it following a major project to brainstorm lessons learnt or to identify quick wins following Voice of the Customer research. It also works very well for scoping your personal New Year’s resolutions, or digging deep on a specific topic such as ‘managing email better’.

Managing Email Better Using the Three Lists Techniques: Identify what to 'do more', 'do less' and 'keep doing'
Too often planning for change (and annual goals) gives insufficient credibility to what’s already going well (and taking up resources), throwing out the perfectly adequate process/on-going-work with the cold bathwater.  This change technique addresses that weakness.

Beautifully simple, the 3 lists technique captures both the best and the worst, it considers the past and the future. It works well in teams and when used alone. It works well to kick off a workshop or to conduct lessons learnt at the end of projects.

Samples Uses Of the Three Lists

Example 1: An Internal Team Project On Interdepartmental Cooperation.

For example, imagine you run an internal project to better understand the needs of your colleagues in other departments.  You might use this technique at the end of the internal ‘voice of the customer’ research project to get the inital ideas or low-hanging fruit onto the table.

Example 2: Springboard To Kick Start Better Understanding Customers.

In this example you’ve decided that the organization really needs to focus in on better understanding external customers.  You bring the team together to explore initial ideas using the three lists technique:

  • Do More => what’s already useful for understanding customers and where are the top-of-mind gaps.
  • Do Less => What hasn’t been working so well and is a candidate for ceasing or might free up some resources.
  • Keep Doing => In what ways is the team already learning about customers and the market place.

An example of using the technique 'do more, do less, keep doing' as a start to better understanding customers

Example 3: Using the 3 List Technique To Learn From Others

You can also use this technique to solicit ideas for each of the three lists from customers, influencers, and channel partners.  You might choose to implement the three lists within a user survey, include it in Voice of the Customer discussion guide, or ask your account managers to bring it up in conversations with existing partners.

This works very well both with people who know your organization inside out, and gives you a sense of the perception of those with only a passing acquaintance.  Topics uncovered include hidden barriers / objections and new ideas related to products, services and processes that touch customers.

Directions For 3 Lists Technique ‘Do More, Do Less, Keep Doing’

  1. Pick your topic.
  2. Make a list of ideas for each of the three categories: one idea per post-it note. With only one idea per post-it note it is easy to debate and move ideas around. Often one list will fill up faster than the others. Aim to have some balance across the three lists. If you have lots of ideas for ‘do more’, it may be a good hint that you are the overly optimistic type.  Switch your focus to considering what you can do less of.
  • Do More
  • Do Less
  • Keep Doing

Rank ideas by putting those with greater importance at the top, and those of lesser importance towards the bottom of the list.  You might decide that this level of change management is sufficient for the objective at hand or you might use this technique as a spring broad for a larger project or more detailed planning.

Time Required:
5 minutes to 1 hour (or as long as you like).
  1. Post-It Notes (virtual or real).
  2. A wall/board/table to place them.

Ranges from: almost free.

I’d like to give credit to whomever came up with this idea but I can’t locate an original source. So if you know the origin of the 3 lists technique please let me know.  This three lists techniques is also know by the following descriptions:

  • ‘do more, do less, keep doing’.
  • ‘do more, do less, continue’.

Resources Related to Planning & Techniques

Considering How To Better Understand Customers?


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About Jane Morgan

With 20 years high-tech marketing & product development experience from Boston to Billund, Berlin to Bangalore, Jane has managed teams and tech products with millions of installs, and millions of revenue (annually). She's researched and developed market strategy for global markets, and established the blueprint for product management in many new teams. As an intrapreneur turned entrepreneur, she changed vowels in 2014 and founded JEM 9 Marketing Consultancy. Today she works with CEOs & business leaders to assist them in understanding and reaching customers. Speaker on market research, technology marketing and product management.