Long-time readers know I recommend creating an alignment-focused organization as the fundamental way to improve performance. As I’ve said in many publications (BPM Magazine, Information Management, CxO magazine),
To do so, organizations must motivate their employees with integrated and cascaded objectives, manage priorities based on impacts rather than perceived urgency, monitor progress towards outcomes, and measure both operational and financial performance.
While I’ve railed on the problems with bad measurements, I haven’t spent as much time talking about the challenges of poor prioritization. In most organizations, priority is given to projects with the most political capital or those that are the furthest behind schedule, rather than to projects with the highest impact. Since many projects do not have an explicit link to a specific objective, it is difficult to determine impact and prioritize between projects that compete for resources. This is why true performance management solutions must include initiative management.
In an environment in which we’re all too busy to accomplish everything in a given day or week, prioritization is as much about what we choose not to do as what we do. Without clear direction, my experience is that employees focus on smaller, familiar tasks with short-term deadlines. They confuse these urgent tasks with potentially more important ones. I call this the tyranny of the urgent.
The alternative is both difficult and transformational. By tying virtually every task to a strategic initiative that supports a specific organizational objective, companies provide clear line of sight into how each employee fundamental helps the organization achieve its mission. Not only is this truly motivating for employees, but it also helps organizations evolve beyond operational efficiency (i.e., “do the work right”) to emphasize strategic effectiveness (i.e., “do the right work”).
Imagine if everyone in your organization was working on the highest priorities towards a common cause.