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Debating Team Priorities
For teams and organizations to make real progress, it is required work for teams to both set, and agree to, priorities. Having too many priorities means delivering nothing with excellence and wasting valuable resources. Too few priorities, and group effort stagnates. Everything suffers from a lack of focused energy. Getting the priorities right is paramount for success.
Too many teams prefer to rank order priorities after debate and discussion between key stakeholders. While this ranking exercise seems logical, it actually creates dissension and encourages leaders to protect their turf.
A better approach is first to decide how many priorities can be supported at any given time based upon the talent, money, and resources available in the organization. Can we dedicate our efforts to five, 10, or 20 critical priorities without losing sight of the everyday work necessary to sustain our enterprise?
Once the number of priorities is clear, the debate should focus on two critical questions:
• What is the specified timeline for any prospective priority?
• How much value will the priority create if delivered on time?
If the initiative is truly a critical priority, it comes with a required timeframe.
All critical priorities must be accomplished within a specified timeframe, no matter what. For example, getting a new plant online by the first quarter, or bringing a product or service to market by the end of the year. If it doesn’t really matter when the initiative is completed, it is not a critical priority.
By debating the long- and short-term value of each proposed initiative, the picture starts to materialize. The more value added and important the time pressure, the higher the priority. Resist the temptation to rank this set. The initiatives are either essential or not. Dedicate resources to accomplish all of them.
Every time a critical priority is completed, gather the team, reassess all priorities, and go through the exercise again. Reaffirm that every priority ties directly to the organization’s vision and strategy.
Changes in the organization and marketplace may dictate stopping the work on a priority and redirecting the resources elsewhere. This keeps priorities fresh and doesn’t allow an initiative to stall without an active discussion. Remember, great teams are great at setting priorities.