Two piles: things to care about…or not

Scott Berkun has had a few recent posts that every new leader should read. The first is here: How project managers establish power.  In this post, Scott highlights one of the most important things to do as a leader —  help your teams and their leaders clear away the clutter:

He gave me clear priorities…. It was amazingly empowering. I could slice through all of the work being thrown at me from across the team and the company, and divide into two neat piles: a) things to care about, b) things not to care about.

Everyone knows that one must prioritize one’s work, but how to do so?  Scott then uses a “There are only two teams at Microsoft to care about, Windows and Office” anecdote to illustrate how prioritizing one’s stakeholders makes it obvious what is to be done:

The problem was working on Internet Explorer during the browser wars, every one of the 100 teams in the company wanted something from me, and every other PM on the team…. There was a huge pile of people who wanted to influence the work I managed. My phone rang all the time and my inbox was always full. If I treated everyone equally I’d be doomed. Couldn’t be done. I had to ignore, or say no to, most of the people who wanted something from me.

PM Quote of the Day — Sara Jeanette Duncan

If you have anything to tell me of importance, for God’s sake begin at the end

Effects of the economy on projects and portfolios

Josh Nankivel at PM Student posted the results of a recent survey he did on the Impact of the Economy on Project Management.  I’ll be curious to see Josh’s comments on the survey.

I did notice that while there were answers about cutbacks, staff reductions, and increased financial scrutiny, I didn’t see any comments about changing priorities.  It would have been nice to see that the current economic turmoil is prompting at least some firms to take a nuanced look at their project portfolios.

Have any of you all gone through a project portfolio “rebalance” in response to the economy?

Necessary vs. Unnecessary Change

When it is not necessary to make a change, it is necessary not to make a change.    — Lord Falkland               

Just a thought, but sometimes we get so caught up in the cult of the new or the need to make a splash that we forget that sometimes the best thing to do is nothing, to leave well enough alone.  When we follow the change management literature blindly, we end up trying to create a sense of urgency about everything, we see innovation resistance everywhere, and we evangelize everyone remorselessly.

I point the finger at myself as well.  Mine is not an essentially conservative nature.  There’s more than a bit of the revolutionary in me, so I need to remember to choose my battles.  Driving one or two key priorities — Peter Drucker suggested adding a second to prevent boredom with the first — has been far more effective than a scattershot strategy.

Besides, when everything is urgent, then nothing is.

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