In a project, you and your team may face what seems to be an endless mountain of tasks and deadlines. You need to provide clarification and direction. And to do so, you'll need to prioritize work as you build a project schedule. The good news is, to do so, there are really only two things you need to know about a task:
- What is due?
- When is it due?
If you know what is due, you can determine estimates on the work and think about what indicators are involved in getting the work done. These indicators may include:
- Funding. A low budget usually means a small work effort is expected. A higher budget will allow for more effort and charge-outs. This means you may become responsible for purchases and expenses that will require an authorization above and beyond your own.
- Resources. If your project involves other people or outside vendors, you need to consider whom you may need to retrieve something from. For example, if data is required to get the work done, factor this into the project's effort. Your timing to receive it and the timing you will need to respond to what you receive is important. Global projects and virtual teams as well as a geographical scope require technology advances. So remember to factor in costs for equipment, connections and any possible barriers that need to be handled.
Next up is the "when is it due" question. The way you structure the project, such as a large versus a small effort, can help to determine timing. And to help you figure out timing, consider:
- Known risks and issues. These put a constraint on timing. So, being aware of when the project is due will most likely dictate if a certain task can be done in a certain timeframe and if something else can be pushed slightly to another timeframe. Be cognizant that unknown risks and issues could cause further problems and delays.
- Lessons learned. Previous lessons learned provide information on how other projects with similar indicators fared.
Prepare a chart or checklist with the significant indicators that make it possible for you to get the project done. Budget, the team (resources), complexity of the work to be done and due date should be columns in your chart. Rank each according to its priority, using a scale of 1 to 10, for example. Demonstrate what the ranking means and what constitutes that level of rank.
Once you have your chart prepared, share it with anyone who may need to rely on it. If a stakeholder or team member comes to you questioning work and has workload problems, disclose your chart. This will lessen a helter-skelter approach to the project work. Finally, have support for your decisions. Your manager or director must support your system for prioritization if it is going to work.
How do you prioritize work?