Re. Setting priorities

Subject: Re. Setting priorities
From: Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Thu, 28 Sep 1995 09:23:19 LCL

Chris Hester asked how to set priorities amidst a
sea of requests for documentation. Chris, the
simple answer is that _you_ can't set the
priorities unless you have management authority.
You're responsible for completing any tasks you
accept within an agreed-upon time, but you can't
know which requests are critical to the success of
your company and which are just mundane business.

My suggestion? What worked for me in a similar
environment was to ask the program managers to
form a triage committee. When a new project was
dumped on me, it came with a priority assigned by
consensus among managers. (The consensus part is
important: one manager's projects were always more
important than anyone else's projects, at least
until he tried to justify this to the other two.)

This won't always work because managers may not
want to meet and assess projects formally. In that
case, another approach often works: ask the
requesters directly (this works better if you
develop a friendly relationship in advance) and
find out what the _real_ deadline is for the
project. If there isn't any deadline, lower the
priority; if there's an urgent deadline, raise the
priority. Incidentally, I was criticized some time
back for posting similar advice (re. establishing
a friendly relationship with SMEs), but in my
defence I'd note that if you lack the time to do
this, you're probably overworked and need more
staff resources. I'd also note that five minutes
of face-to-face can often replace ten minutes of
telephone calls or memo writing.

On top of this, you'll have to shuffle resources
as needed (e.g., if your SMEs retire in a week,
interview them before they go). That's project
management, the subject of another thread.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Disclaimer: If I didn't commit it in print in one
of our reports, it don't represent FERIC's

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