Managing priorities is as much an art as a science for project managers. All projects must have clear priorities, regardless how big or small. Complex technical projects will change regardless of planning and scheduling. It is the nature of complex projects. There are always challenges and surprises to overcome.
No matter how good the software used to manage projects, it is you who inputs the data. You are the one responsible for managing your team’s work priorities. Here are some best practices to help your team meet deadlines.
Have a transparent project schedule
You need a schedule. Trying to run a team without one is sheer madness. It will only lead to trouble.
List all the tasks you need to or can complete in a day.
- Look at what needs completing by the end of each day. This is the work that if it fails to meet the deadline will have serious consequences for the organisation
- Check what work needs completing that has high dependencies. Consider what needs completing so other work can progress.
- Identify the work that will have the highest value for your company. For example, client work is more important than daily internal tasks. And, attending to customer services is more important than writing up processes and procedures.
Using this information, map out a project schedule. But do not keep it a secret. You do not want your team confused and still working on priorities that have already changed. Make sure the software you use gives unlimited visibility to your team. You want them to know as soon as priorities change.
Prioritise according to deadline
No matter the size of a project there will be deadlines. Complex projects will have milestones the team needs to meet so you need to manage long and short-term priorities. Consider whether something is important or urgent. Ensure you record the deadline next to each task when planning the work schedule. If tasks are neither urgent or important, their priority is low.
Difference between urgent and important
What is the difference between something that is urgent or something that is important? You need to balance changing priorities so you need to understand the difference:
- Urgent tasks. Urgent tasks are those that relate to winning new business and servicing existing customers. Meeting time sensitive milestones is urgent. This can be the difference between receiving a milestone payment or a penalty for being late.
- Important tasks. Important tasks are the ones that are only pushed aside to deal with urgent tasks. These are tasks that usually underpin the value of your business. Do not push them aside for long.
You need to make decisions between urgent and important tasks to help you draw the line when setting up work priorities.
Flexibility is key
A project manager’s responsibilities constantly change according to the demands of the project. What you need to accomplish today can completely change tomorrow. Be flexible. You need to be able to adapt to change while maintaining the team schedule to meet deadlines.
Whether you manage one or several projects, it is a challenge. By actively prioritising, you have control every step of the way. It helps boost the team’s morale and increase productivity. Your team’s success is your success.