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Article No.: 11-6

Article Title: Are You Chasing Too Many Priorities?!

Author: Linda Gravett, Ph.D., SPHR, CEQC

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My article last month focused on strategic plan execution, and this month I’d like to explore this important element of the process more fully.  Specifically, the question I want to address is, “How do I decide which are the critical priorities for me, or my team, to execute?”
If you’re like most of us, you feel that you simply have too any claims on your time and energy and you can’t possibly fulfill all the obligations you established a few months back in the strategic planning process.  You’re not alone.  A 2010 survey by Booz & Company of 1,800 executives in global organizations uncovered these complaints:

  • 64% of respondents report that they have too many conflicting priorities
  • 56% of executives report that resource allocation in a way that best supports strategic business imperatives is a critical challenge
  • 81% of respondents said that at least some of their growth initiatives have led to waste in terms of people, money, and/or time
  • Almost half of the executives (47%) report that most of their employees and customers do not understand the company’s methodology around creating value…..or their role in helping create value

This survey reinforces the main challenge I hear from executives I work with around the world – employees do not have a clue how the strategic plan affects their work and don’t know how to set priorities to align with that plan.  The leadership team is often hard pressed to help their staff with this issue because they’re experiencing that very same challenge!
The starting point I use as my “go to” foundation for setting priorities is the Mission, Vision, and Key Objectives statements.  If an activity, small or large, is a true priority, there’s a clear path from that activity and the reason the organization exists (Mission); how the organization wants to position itself in the future (Vision); and five to seven critical areas that must be accomplished within the next year to achieve the Mission and Vision (Key Objectives).  If you’re considering 10 activities or assignments for yourself (or your staff) that you want to have accomplished within the coming month, first ask yourself which of these assignments directly and clearly supports the Mission, Vision and Key Objectives.  Those are the true priorities, and the others can wait.
Perhaps after this reflective process you uncover five true priorities for yourself and you know that you simply don’t have the bandwidth personally because you like to have an hour or two of sleep every night.  I’ve developed a decision making model that helps leaders determine what to delegate to others and what to keep for oneself.  The key questions to follow in succession are:

  1.  What specifically does success look like?
  2. Is there a quality requirement for this project that only I can fulfill?
  3. Do I have sufficient information on my own to complete the assignment?
  4. Is the assignment structured so that there’s only one path that has to be followed, or is there room for creativity from others?
  5. Is acceptance of the final deliverable contingent on others’ input and buy-in?
  6. Do direct reports or peers have the skills to complete the deliverables, or can they acquire them quickly?

 In answering these questions, you’re likely to reach a conclusion quickly about what you can and cannot delegate.  Question #2 focuses on success criteria, which is the starting point for knowing at the end of the assignment whether you (or someone on your staff) has effectively completed this priority.  Here’s a hint:  Success = Return on Investment (of time, energy, and capital).

If you have questions about this article, don’t hesitate to contact me at lsg@justthebasics.com.  Or, use our contact form by clicking here

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