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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Nedrow

2. Priorities

Creating a list of ranked priorities is the greatest gift you can give your organization.

Whether you are the CEO, a product manager, or a team leader, publishing your list of ranked priorities provides a means to have meaty discussions on the important issues at hand and answers the question, “Well, what else are you working on?”

Priorities need to be communicated clearly, link directly to the work the teams do, and tie to company goals.  Timely, clear priorities minimize the clutter in folks’ brains and on their plates.

Establishing priorities allows team members to tightly focus on their responsibilities to deliver the “success outcomes.”  When personal life comes knocking at their door - child care, parents, illness, moving, water leaks - team members are able to pause work, handle their personal life situations, and return to work with less chaos.

When we do not create a prioritized list of objectives, team members face multiple challenges which negatively impact their performance:

  • Limits their individual decision-making power, creating a time drag by constantly taking items up the management chain for decisions

  • Instigates re-work and divergent solutions resulting from disconnects in organizational expectations (timing, metrics, solutions)

  • Creates an overwhelming employee work environment where 'everything must be done' but little is completed, creating burn-out and higher turnover

DILBERT © Scott Adams. Used By permission of ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION. All rights reserved.

At a macro level, multiple initiatives compete for precious resources.  The initiatives typically fall into three categories:  Run-The-Business (RTB), Strategic Investment, and Compliance.  Within these categories, there are literally dozens - if not a hundreds - of activities and projects.

Setting priorities at each level of the organization becomes the lynchpin for accelerating success.

Imagine a scenario where all of our teams publish a list of ranked priorities, discuss the interdependencies between our teams’ lists, adjust our lists, and then GO!  

When we have a "1 through N" list of priorities, it is not to say that we only work on the top three.  But the top three are resourced, have constant visibility across the organization, and when the top three need help, team members know the importance of pausing their other work and assisting. 

When one of the top priorities is completed, we celebrate, learn from the experience, share that learning, and move forward to conquer more of the list.

If you are stymied by slow uninspired progress, step back and take an inventory of the things your teams are working on.  You may find several challenges, but in my experience, one of the surest roadblocks is too many divergent tasks simultaneously worked.

This scattershot approach might sound good for a moment, 'Ok! Everyone take one item and work it!' but in the long run, less is accomplished because almost every activity needs support from other team members. Then conflicts arise. Then confusion.

Then progress sloooooooooows dooooooooown. 

Pull your team back together by focusing on the ranked list of priorities.  Keep hauling out that list and talking about progress against the top priorities.  And remember, it doesn’t matter if you are a CEO, a product manager, or a team leader - wherever you are in the organization, your list of ranked priorities is critical to maintaining constant forward momentum on your most critical goals.

When we have a list of prioritized goals,

our teams focus on them and crush them.

A quick nod to the Agile world: Software folk have adopted part of this through Agile methodology.  Working on the most critical stories to create and develop working software has proven an incredibly efficient means to deliver value to companies.  Providing a minimum viable product with operations teams supporting Agile projects is having profound impacts on how teams identify and impact customer experiences. 

BONUS READ: Creating a ranked list of priorities - Carrie's Cheat Sheet.

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