I couldn't have said it any better. "When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority" said my client today as I was shadowing him in order to better understand his organization's work process and tailor our training programs accordingly. Shadowing is such an insightful exercise. It allows us to take a look at what is under the hood; the nuances that make each work environment unique. It is a great learning for everyone involved; the observer, the one being observed, and everyone around them.
Back to the priority overload
Priority overload seems to be a common complaint which we hear about often in our workshops. It is a complaint that we need to pay closer attention to!
Creating a priority (such as communicating that an issue is urgent or a task needs to be performed under a tight deadline) needs to be taken very seriously and exercised with utmost care. If not, and if too many priorities are created, and if they are reactive rather than strategic, the result is counterproductive if not even harmful. If this persists over time, it can lead to the team getting tired, then exhausted, then fatigued, resentful, and maybe rebellious. Then comes exodus!
By the way, priority overload need not be confused with changing priorities and with being flexible and responsive to changes in the marketplace. Priority overload is about having too many priorities to the detriment of being successful at any of them. Changing priorities on the other hand is part of being dynamic and responsive, but should also be considered carefully and strategically.
The key question: "What is the link?"
So how do we ensure that the priorities we are creating or changing are carefully selected and don't backfire? One practice that we stress in the Accomplishing More With Less Workshop is a simple but overlooked one, which is getting into the habit of asking the question "What is the link?" In other words, what is the link between this task, or this priority or project, and the end results that we are seeking? If the link is clear, we are good to go. If not, trouble is on its way and careful reassement is in order!
Managers and executives, beware! And be strategic! And be attentive as to whether your team is already on the graph above!