Weekend Thoughts, 8/14/21: Focused Priorities

Posted on Wed, 09/01/2021 - 10:28

Organizations that are able to focus on priorities get things done. While this sounds simple, it requires the discipline to not change priorities rapidly. Priorities can’t just be the flavor of the day - even if the organization learns of more priorities.

Trust is lost with teams if priorities change too rapidly, as team members question why a top priority suddenly isn’t a priority. Plus, delivery is contagious. Teams given the time and opportunity to focus often succeed and continue to succeed, as this becomes the ethos. Combined with effective prioritization, magic happens.

While I advocate for learning and recognize that active prioritization is a key agile tenet, this needs to be balanced to be effective. Too many changes to priorities can paralyze a team from doing anything significant, even when positioned as a focus on incremental business value. Priorities require proper due diligence and this, too, is an investment of time. Changing priorities is then a lost investment and teams can get stuck in perpetual planning without delivery.

And, finally, something potentially controversial: priorities need less management! I believe in the “trust but verify” mindset. Teams need less cooks in the kitchen and fewer people pinging them about status, questions, progress, and more. A key to focus is removing excess noise. Companies should have systems in place to verify progress, like backlogs, reporting tools, and more. Have the discipline to use and trust the data to afford teams the opportunity to deliver without distractions. One way to accomplish this is to have fewer people “managing” a priority. It seems counter-intuitive but it works.