In last week's blog, my colleague, Bari, explained her time-tested (and mom-approved) approach to prioritization, which focuses on a perceived short-term, mid-term, and long-term view of tasks, actions, and goals. It's a helpful strategy for both the big picture of things and the everyday minutiae.
If you’re someone who needs a more concrete prioritization methodology, there’s a fairly simple step-by-step process that can help you identify, rank, and assign importance. While dollar signs often dictate prioritization, this formulaic approach takes a combination of factors into consideration. You might find that cost isn’t the be-all end-all.
So, how do you set your priorities when they’re too close to call?
Start by looking at the strategies on the table and the projects associated with them. For each project, rank them from 1 to 10, based on:
- Level of effort. Make sure to assess this across disciplines or departments, not siloed in each.
- Time requirement. How long will it take to see results?
Impact on business. Once executed and the results are in, how important are those results to the business (could be dollars, engagement, leads, reach, etc.) This will be relative to the full list.
Now, it's time to score. More weight is typically given to results, so multiply the impact on business by two. Subtract both the level of effort and time required in order to see which projects are "ripest" to contribute the most to, with the least investment.
[(Impact on business) x 2] - [(Level of effort) + (Time required)] = Optimal Opportunity
This methodology or “matrix” approach may not be applicable in every situation, but it could be useful for at least narrowing down the most lucrative opportunities.
Feeling Confident in Fluidity
Of course, any project manager knows being nimble is a non-negotiable. The process is dynamic.
“Any project manager knows being nimble is a non-negotiable.”
Even if you've strategically identified priorities, understand what the core need is, and have made all the right decisions based on your assessments, it's that risk factor--those unknowns--that can derail the plan and lead to missed opportunities.
Any kind of initiative is going to require coordination. In many cases, it’ll be the order you do things and the framework around the initiative that will help mitigate risk and achieve optimal results. I’ve found that the best practices for mitigating risk include:
- Stakeholder alignment. We need cooperation and support from everyone.
- Fluid and ongoing communication. We are in this together, so let’s make sure everyone is always in the loop.
- Holistic understanding of the "universe” that is the project. There has to be a comprehensive awareness as to why certain elements are important, and what's going to get in the way.
Managing the Urgency of Importance
Success for any sized project lies in the knowledge of that universe as a whole, as well as the tiniest details. You have to understand production.
“You might find that cost isn’t the be-all end-all.”
You need to recognize the varying dependencies and subsystems associated with the project--including your team, their collective and individual working styles, and what else is going on around you and the team (e.g. where resources might be impacted).
That way, when the harsh realities of urgent requests get in the way of important tasks, you've created a safe space that allows for interruptions, and you’ve built an environment that is solution focused.