Prioritisation: Are you doing the right things?

Priorities over diary page
Prioritisation means knowing what you are going to do.

I know you’re terribly busy, but take a moment to ask “am I doing the right things?” If someone shouted

“Stop what you are doing!”

right now, would you look back at what you had created and be satisfied, or would you wish you had put the effort into something different?

Get your priorities right

Sooner or later every project comes to an end. Projects can end for many reasons:

  • All the work has been completed
  • We’ve run out of time, or
  • We’ve run out of money (budget)
  • Someone in charge says “I’ve changed my mind. Stop!”

Knowing what the priorities are as an individual and as a project at each stage is extremely powerful. It means that you know where to put your effort, you know what to do next, when you finish a task, or a task become “blocked” and it means that you know what you are _not_ going to do (at least for the  time being).

Prioritisation: How should you decide your priorities?

You can do it on the basis of maximising benefit or minimising risk or cost or any other criteria you decide. Those in authority (which might or might not include you) should discuss the priorities (that includes having a good argument about them) for phase of the project you are working on, agree what the priorities are and then stick to that plan.

One of the strengths of the various “Agile” project management methods is the emphasis they put on agreeing the objectives or priorities of a time-box, iteration or sprint. Personally, I like to use MoSCoW for this, where:

  • M= Must have. There should only be one or two “Must haves” for each time-box.
  • S= Should have. There can be several “Should haves”
  • C=Could have. There can be several “Could haves”, and finally
  • W=Won’t have (this time around).

This approach concentrates on the “Must Haves” and only starts on the “Should Haves” when they have been completed. If you get it right, you run out of time or budget ideally somewhere in the Could haves (if you do well) or in the Should haves (if you make less progress than you hope).

Make sure that when someone calls “stop!” you (and everyone else) thinks they have received good value for your efforts.