And that means everyone must know what the priorities are to avoid having a project become unnecessarily hung up waiting for resources. That’s impossible without clear, stable priorities. That means your people need to know the answer to these two questions—and hopefully without a lot of effort.

  1. What should I be working on now?
  2. What should I work on next?

These may sound like simple questions, but in most companies, the answer is resolved by the “Wheel Method”— the squeaky wheel or the big wheel. Whoever makes the most noise or has the most influence, gets the resources.

The conventional wisdom that causes much of this is that strategic priorities should drive all priorities—including day to day execution. In fact, some project managers learn to manipulate this to their project’s advantage—not necessarily what is best for the company.

Don’t get me wrong. Strategic priorities are critical, most importantly as part of governance where they help you to decide which opportunity should be the next to start. It’s just that they are very difficult to interpret at the execution level.

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The good news is that there is another, more effective approach.

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