How often do you see your to do list, project plan or your project portfolio and see that there is too much to be done in too little time? In most companies prioritization is an often political process where either the person with the loudest voice 'wins' (for instance sales or a particular CEO) or where metrics are used which tell you little about the possible success of a project or action. When metrics are not available people tend to rely on their gut. All of these ways of prioritizing work do not lead to the best outcomes for your projects or organization.
So how do you prioritize well?
You need your stakeholders to decide on a decision making process about priorities, preferably when there is not yet a problem with too many priorities. You need to decide on the method and type of validation you require for prioritization. Reaching consensus is nearly impossible. The purpose of designing a decision making process is to collaborate to shared conclusions, which is not the same as consensus. People need to feel that the decisions have been reached in a more or less objective way even if the decision was not the one they wanted. If people feel cheated during this part of the process you will see hurt feelings and the project team will be less effective.
There are many tools to prioritize work. I start with some of my favorite ones first. There will be more in later blogs.
The Eisenhower matrix is about spotting what is urgent and important and what is not. It helps you to decide what to do first and what later. When you do this for your personal organization you can be flexible in your definition of urgent and important. In a group setting it is important to decide beforehand when something is important (a certain strategic goal for instance) and when something is urgent (something needs to be done within a week). If you do not define urgent and important you will run into differences of opinion and frustration about what gets to be important and urgent and what is not important or urgent.
I like this matrix because it is intuitive to use. There are four quadrants:
The RICE score
In the RICE score you work with validated scores to calculate an overall priority score for your list of projects or actions. I like this one because it is not overly complex, but requires validation. So what kind of numbers do you need?
When you have these estimates you can calculate the RICE score by multiplying impact with reach and confidence and dividing this by the estimate for effort. When you have a RICE score for each project you can sort them according to score. Check whether the listed scores make sense to you when you compare the projects to each other. It is not unusual to have two or three projects that appear to have wrong estimates when you compare them to other projects. It takes some time to calibrate your estimates, so recalculate if necessary. It makes sense to start with the projects with the highest score. But since you may have some time left over after planning two high score projects, it is also not strange to start with a lower score project as well.
These are just two ways of prioritizing work. There are many more. I will get into those in later posts. I hope you enjoyed this one.