Join Mike Figliuolo for an in-depth discussion in this video Matching priorities and resources, part of Building High-Performance Teams.
A critical step in the prioritization process is looking at all of your initiatives after you've screened them according to your strategic filters, and then comparing them to one another so you can create a list that is stack-ranked from highest priority initiative to lowest priority. Once you've done that prioritization process, you then need to look at the resources that are available and understand how deep into that prioritization list you can get with the resources that you have.
Finally, once you have that list and you understand what your resources enable you to tackle, you need to take a step back and make sure you have an appropriate mix of the types of initiatives so you're advancing as many of your goals as possible. Once you've done that, and you have that prioritization list, take a look at the resources that you have on hand, and for each initiative on that list, go ahead and document what resources you'll need to complete that initiative.
You may need to look at cash, people, technology resources, time, operational resources. Whatever it's going to take to get that initiative done, you need to document those resources. Then what you do is look at the pool of available resources, my team has X number of people, our budget has X dollars in it, we have this many hours of IT allocated to us. Then start allocating those resources to that prioritization list.
You start with the first initiative, and you give it all the resources it needs to get done. Then you move to the second, and you allocate remaining resources. You keep working down that list and allocating resources until you run out. Once you've run out of resources, you draw a line and you say anything above that line is appropriately resourced for us to pursue, and anything below that line we're not going to start work on it until we get an appropriate amount of resources.
Now, we can start work on those initiatives below the line when we complete something above the line and we free up resources, so people who may have been working on the first project are now free when that project is done, and they can start on the one that's below the line, or when we get additional resources allocated to us from somewhere else in the organization, or we may switch priorities and move something from below the line to above the line given changing market conditions.
You, as a leader of a high-performing team, need to hold that line. You will feel constant pressure to work on things that are below the line. People know you have a high-performing team, but your team will not perform well if you start spreading them too thin. Your obligation is to hold the line, and if people want you to work on things below the line, you need to ask for the corresponding resources. Now, once you have that look and you have an understanding of here are the initiatives that are above the line that are my highest priority that I'm going to start tackling, take a step back and assess the portfolio of what you're pursuing and what you're saying is high priority.
What I like to do is take a look at the objective functions of the organization and what my goals are. Then map those initiatives, all of them, not just the ones above the line, but all of them against those goals and see how they perform. Then what I do is I look at which ones are my high priority ones, and which ones are my low priority ones, and do I have a mix of that portfolio across high priority things that are driving my agenda and not allocate resources to things that are low priority? Let's look at an example.
Let's imagine I have two goals in my organization. My first goal may be going global, and my other goal may be launching new products. That's what I want to achieve in the organization. What I can then do is map all of my initiatives against how well they help me achieve those goals. Initiatives in this lower corner don't really advance either of those goals. Initiatives up in the upper corner advance both goals simultaneously.
Now, once I've laid out that portfolio I need to pull out my prioritization list. What I like to do is make sure that my high priority initiatives are the ones that are advancing my goals the most. I take that look by taking the prioritization list, and I look at each initiative on that list. So each X representing an initiative, I'll start with the ones that are high priority on my list, and I'll circle them in green.
Then I'll look at the bottom of my prioritization list and figure out which ones are lowest in importance. I'll circle those initiatives in red. Now, hopefully, you'll end up with a distribution that looks like that. You may have some initiatives that aren't circled and they're mid-level priority.
That's okay. As long as you've got a preponderance of high priority initiatives in the upper right, and your low priority ones in the lower left. Now you have a problem if your high priority initiatives you find are all in this corner because that means you're saying things are high priority and they're not really advancing my goals. So you have an inconsistency somewhere in your prioritization process. Either your strategic filters are incorrect, your goals are not the ones you should really be driving, or your assessment of the initiatives isn't mapping well to those strategic filters.
You just want to do this portfolio check once you've done your prioritization to make sure that you're going to be focusing your efforts on the highest priority initiatives that are going to be advancing your goals as much as possible. If you're able to articulate that prioritization list, allocate your resources appropriately, and draw the line, then focus your efforts on the high priority initiatives, hopefully over time you're going to advance the goals of your organization more effectively than if you're not prioritizing at all.
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