The Power of Prioritization

How often have you heard that something needs to be “prioritized?”  A lot, right?  You’ve probably heard (and thought) it so much that this extremely powerful exercise has lost all its strength.

I find myself saying this often throughout my day (probably more than I should).  But, I realized that it’s hard to take that phrase seriously anymore.  Maybe “seriously” is not the right word.  We all know prioritization is serious.  But let’s look at what it means to prioritize something and why it’s one of the most important things you could be doing every day.

Without really taking the time to analyze a set of possible actions, it’s impossible to truly prioritize.  If you don’t do any work at prioritizing, you’re going to end up being totally reactive and will probably find yourself doing busy work (you know, the stuff that feels like you’re getting stuff done but aren’t).  When you get to the end of your day and have to ask yourself what you got done, that’s the sign of busy work.

But, I will skip out on the granular stuff (projects, tasks, etc.) and focus on the abstract concept of building something (software, processes, anything).

When you don’t prioritize the elements of whatever you’re building, you’re likely to turn a 3-month project into a 3-year project.  Why?  Because you’ll be doing busy work for 2 years and nine months, and actual production work for three of those months.  Let’s hope your market hasn’t moved on in that time!

When you prioritize the elements of what you’re building, you give yourself guidelines to measure the importance of each task.  You’re able to start saying “no” to doing things right away.  You’re also able to begin analyzing whether or not you’re making assumptions about what needs doing and who you need to do them.

When you prioritize the elements of what you’re building, you give yourself guidelines to measure the importance of each task. 

There are three main objectives when determining a correct priority:

1

Prioritize it and get it done
2

Prioritize it and delegate to a team member or hire to get it done
3

Table as a future priority

By tabling stuff for the future and focusing on the things that are true priorities, you’re also buying yourself and your team time to learn more from getting people using whatever it is that you’re building. Change can be hard for people and always moving quickly when building can wear on teams.

A common example of this is building software. In the beginning, every feature sounds amazing and is a must-have.  If you start building immediately (as many people do), you’re going to realize that not all features were a good idea, that they definitely weren’t must-haves, and pretty soon, you’re stuck in development hell trying to understand why the project is $100k over budget and one year overdue.

Here’s what works for me when it comes to prioritization:

1

Are there any assumptions? If yes, it’s a priority to resolve them before any building starts.
2

What are the true must-haves? To answer this question, you have to know the value prop of what you’re building and who’s going to use it.
3

What can or should be added later? Suppose you start with your true must-haves and table the rest. In that case, chances are you will learn so much by getting people using whatever you’re building that 90% of the items you tabled end up never being important and new, more important items based on user feedback will get added to the list.

This process can seem a lot less fun than just diving in and building a project plan or a product.  But I force myself to go through these steps as often as possible because I find it a lot less fun to build stuff that isn’t going to generate a return on the investment (time, money, and energy) that went into it.

You don’t have to figure out how to prioritize things on your own. BGBO Co. can help your company get organized and streamline projects so you can maximize growth and efficiency. Book a call with us here!

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