Supporting Prioritisation Across The Business

Bit of food for thought today.

We have been working with a client recently on a simple, clear way of prioritising both strategic and day-to-day demands on time (in this case for the IT department).

If It’s Too Hard, Abdicate It…?

At Critical Action, we’re great believers in the principle that managers and leaders can’t create two independent sets of priorities for strategic (“we must improve the business”) and tactical (“we must keep our users and customers happy”) activities, and abdicate to operational staff the balancing of the two in the real world.

That’s not fair, because the balancing act is actually the difficult bit, and it’s also not smart, because we’re losing control and visibility of service quality and progress of improvements until it’s too late and someone presents us with a problem.

Consistency and Trust

As leaders, owners and managers, we need to be thinking about these difficult real-world choices before we “hand down the priorities”, and consulting with our teams on how to make prioritisation work.

The start point for our work this week was to help come up with some simple principles that could be applied across all aspects of work, which would help answer the question “what do I do first?” and also, support us in explaining to users and customers why their request (important as it is) is not top of the queue. It also helps your staff, because they know if they are being given a tough time, you will back them up on their correct prioritisation. It’s about consistency and trust.

The initial list for this client was (from top priority down):

  • Data integrity (e.g. is it accurate and up to date)
  • Data security (e.g. is it adequately protected against incorrect access)
  • Customer-facing (e.g. are we pleasing or letting down our customers)
  • Operational efficiency (e.g. are we wasting our time, duplicating things or creating errors)

Of course, you could debate any of these areas (particularly the top two), and the priority will most certainly be different for individual businesses. However, thinking of your own short list, and debating the priority is an interesting exercise to go through, and can’t but help improve the joined up view of priority across and throughout your business.

A short, clear list encourages us focus on what’s really important for the success of our organisation. What’s the list for your business?