Make priorities matter again with even over statements

You become what you focus on.

Confusing priorities drive confusing results.

Prioritization requires clarity but, most importantly, sacrifice. Saying yes to what’s important is easy. It’s what you say ‘no’ to that defines your success.

An ‘even over’ statement is a declaration of priority. You are saying that you will prioritize one good thing even over another good thing.

Use this tool to establish clear team priorities. Your team will become what they focus on.

What are even over statements?

Leading is about choice. You have to make tough calls and prioritizing requires favoring one good thing over another.

Getting rid of negative, meaningless things is easier. The challenge is prioritizing among good things.

An ‘even over’ statement is an action-driven tool. It will help you choose one good thing even over another good thing.

At Liberationist, when we kick off a culture or team transformation project, one of the first steps is understanding alignment. That includes asking individuals to define priorities using “even over” statements.

As you might imagine, when we compare everyone’s notes, there’s usually a huge gap. Not only are priorities unclear, but people have a hard time prioritizing – especially between two good things.

Here are some examples of “even over” statements:

  • Local clients even over global clients
  • Employees’ happiness even over customers’ happiness
  • Speed even over perfection

The Exercise to Establish Clear Priorities

Duration: 30-min session (or more, depending the complexity of issues and team size).

Participants: Everyone who can inform and should decide upon key priorities within a particular team. Prioritize diverse perspectives/ backgrounds even over hierarchy.

Team size: Ideally, no more than 5-7 people


1. Share the goals and purpose of the session

2. Ask everyone to share the goals, purpose, desired behaviors, objectives, etc. that the team wants to achieve in the short and long term

Participants should capture single ideas on one post-it. Everyone should write as many as they can. Stick all post-its to a wall.

Cluster post-its in case people share similar concepts but using different wording.

3. Ask people to –individually– write even over statements using the following formula:

(Choice A) even over (Choice B)

(Durability) even over (style) could work for a company like Ikea.

(Wow our customers) even over (sales profit) captures Zappos’ customer-centric approach.

4. Share out and consolidate ‘even over’ statements. Allow time for people to provide feedback and comments before moving on to the next step 

5. Vote even over statements using a 1-5 scale.

6. Choose the top 3. (some folks recommend 5, but I like to keep it simple and focused) 

7. Spread the top 3 even over statements across the organization/ team.

8. Be open to feedback – especially to ensure clarity and understanding.

the even over statement canvas

Coaching Tips for facilitating the Even Over Exercise

Pick a facilitator. They need to be unbiased and guide the process. The facilitator should push back to ensure priorities are clear. 

Revisit your priorities on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. Changing your priorities constantly can be as bad not changing them ever. Monitor results and market changes to see whether you need to readjust or clarify your priorities.  

Prioritize business even over individual happiness. Don’t let groupthink get in the way of what’s right. When selecting and voting on priorities, everyone should focus on what will help the overall team and organization, not their personal interests.

Additional Reading about Techniques for Prioritization

Strategic Prioritization Using ‘Even Over’ Statements