Published here November 2003.

PART I | Reason 2 | Project-by-Project Decision Making
Lack of Clear Priorities | Combine Projects into a Portfolio Database
Establish a Portfolio Management Office | Typical Portfolio Management Process
Project Release | Improving the Prioritization Process | PART III

Problems Caused by the Lack of Clear Priorities

A related problem is that the failure to establish organizational project priorities causes inefficiencies in the day-to-day allocation of project resources. Imagine that you are a member of a project team in a typical organization. Like most project team members, you are working on several projects simultaneously. You are under pressure from all your project managers to make faster progress.

Suppose you finish a milestone on an important project ahead of schedule. Do you use the opportunity to get an early start on your next task on this project? More likely, you turn your attention to one of your other projects. Your day-to-day priorities are based on your desire to minimize the pressures you feel from your various project managers. Although the organization may benefit more from your taking the opportunity to put your important project ahead of schedule, that project is unlikely to obtain the benefits of your early finish.

The point is that prioritization always happens. It is not a matter of whether or not to prioritize. It is only a question of who does it and how. In the absence of established priorities, people use their own prioritization methods. One common prioritization method is first in first out (FIFO). "Whatever task shows up in my in-box first, I do first." Another common prioritization method is the "squeaky wheel." Whoever complains to me the loudest gets the work done first.

Another prioritization method is to do first the work for the manager that you like the best, has the most interesting projects, or writes your performance reviews. None of these methods is likely to result consistently in the best allocation of resources for the organization. Prioritization is a leadership task. Unless management makes the effort to prioritize projects, the allocation of project resources will be left to individual project managers, and the result will not be in the best interests of the organization.

Problems with Project-by-Project Decision Making  Problems with Project-by-Project Decision Making

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