Every company dealing with multiple projects simultaneously have to efficiently prioritize them to make each of them and all of them successful. Prioritizing projects is a science as much as it is an art. It requires technology, training, and skills along with an artistic talent to put everything in order. Further, there’s strategy and then there are operations!
Bringing both these to align with the priorities and goals of the organization can be quite challenging. But setting the priorities properly will definitely drive the business to success. Things get tougher when every project on hand is considered number one!
As Stephen Covey said –
“The bottom line is, when people are crystal clear about the most important priorities of the organization and team they work with and prioritized their work around those top priorities, not only are they many times more productive, they discover they have the time they need to have a whole life.”
Here are some strategies that help in prioritizing projects, even when they are all critical:
1. Have a broader and detailed project plan
It is important to know the length and breadth of each project you need to prioritize. So to begin with, list out all the projects that your organization is handling and also have the detailed plan for each handy. This will help you gain an overall view of what all projects are currently in progress in your organization.
2. Shortlist only the most important projects
Once you list out all the projects in hand and in progress, shortlist only the ones that need to be prioritized. Not all projects require priority. So identify the ones that you need to include in the comparison sheet for prioritizing.
3. Set the individual goals right
Set the goals for the individual projects shortlisted. Once the goals are set, the project’s plans can be realigned to achieve it. This way, the details of each project can be evaluated at any given point of time.
4. Plan for long and short-term goals
Every project and organization has short-term as well as long-term goals. If resolving a particular issue in the design is a short-term goal, attaining a certain percentage of profit will be a long-term goal. All long term and short term goals are to be properly set considering the goals of the organization.
5. Target the deadline
Deadlines drive businesses to success. Like Harvey Mackay told,
“Deadlines aren’t bad. They help you organize your time. They help you set priorities. They make you get going when you might not feel like it.”
It is always easier to work with a deadline to challenge. You know what has to be completed first and have a clearer idea of when it is expected to roll out.
6. Plan for contingency
While planning the long and short-term goals, you must plan for any known and unknown risks. Risk management is vital to project implementation because it helps you to be prepared for any contingency without having to replan the entire project from the scratch.
The small and large buffers you plan will help to overcome any contingencies that are bound to occur during the course of the project. During a contingency, you can also rework the priorities so that the projects are not affected. This will definitely save your reputation and boost employee morale.
7. Identify the drivers
The projects may have different drivers that add value to a project’s priority. It could be the cost, profitability, time already invested and expected to complete, reputation at stake, relationship with the client, future prospects etc. all of which are important.
You can weigh each project in terms of all those criteria that drive it and then estimate what the completion or delay would result in.
8. Share the plans with team
The entire team needs to be aware of the priorities or else, you will find difficulty in coordinating the various elements of the projects during the integration. To make sure that the entire team is well-aligned with the priorities set, use a common platform to share the various tasks and the priorities set for each.
Effective communication is also another important aspect to make sure that the project progresses according to the set priority.
9. Expect and be ready to Accept changes
Since you have already planned for contingency, you can expect a change that’s inevitable. It could be internal or external. It is important to be prepared for a change and that’s exactly where the contingency plan and buffer help. Inevitable changes must be accepted without wasting much time on evaluating the same options repeatedly. Priorities should be flexible to adapt to changes.
Those are the major points to consider while prioritizing the projects. But ever wondered how smart leaders actually get these ideas rolled out? Here’s how!
Bonus. Leading the prioritized projects to success
There are more factors that influence the project prioritization process depending upon the organization, its work-culture, resource availability etc. The project leaders should take necessary steps to identify the various factors that aid prioritizing the projects and then take ample measures to roll out the plans as scheduled.
The smart leaders consider the following vital steps to ensure that their projects are rolled out perfectly according to the set priorities.
- Collaborate – Great leaders collaborate to prioritize and drive the projects to success. All departments and wings within the organization must contribute their ideas to prioritize efficiently. This makes sure, to an extent that the team will not have to face any untoward surprises midway.
- Discover – While innovation is always great, if you already have the provision for practices but have never realized the opportunity to utilize them, the better option is to discover what’s already there in the organization. The leaders along with the team can find out the hidden opportunities vesting within the organization and utilize it to the core before they turn around for an external help.
- Simplicity – The KISS approach or ‘Keep it Simple, Silly’ works perfect with smart leaders. They understand the power of simplicity and utilize it to the core. They just stress on the core factors that drive their projects to success and do not complicate much.
- Review – Smart leaders review their prioritized projects continuously to make sure they are consistent and are performing according to the plans and schedules. These reviews are made transparent to make sure that the team is well-aware of the progress and are immediately informed of the shortfalls to make corrections without delay. This will ensure that the projects are completed well on time utilizing the buffer already allocated.
Looking back, we can summarize the process of project prioritization based on the following factors:
- A broader and detailed project plan
- Only the most important projects
- Set the individual goals
- Long and short-term goals
- A deadline is a must
- Contingency plans are required
- The project drivers to be identified
- Share the plans with team
- Be ready to adapt to the changes
A smart leader can roll out the prioritized project by collaborating with various teams within and outside the organization, discovering the hidden opportunities within the organization, keeping everything simple, and reviewing the progress closely and continuously.