I was working with a client recently where people had real problems with prioritization. It made me think back to the old Time Management and Kepner Tregoe advice on how to prioritize and to realize how outdated some of these assumption about prioritization had become in the matrix.

The assumption in the past was that if you got organized and focused on what was important, not just what was urgent, you could get everything done.

The reality in a fast moving, matrix environment is rather different.

  • many of us are so busy that we don’t have time to get even all the important and urgent things done. (maybe we are busy doing the wrong things but that’s another story)
  • because of competing priorities in a matrix it is unlikely that the things you consider an urgent priority have the same urgency or priority for me.
  • this tension can leave people feeling guilty or working harder and harder

If we all prioritize individually we may not be able to get anythig done where interdependence or collective work is required.

Yet alignment is a challenge in a matrix which deliberately trades clarity for flexibility. So what to do to resolve this. Here are some ideas

  1. First get rid of the work that just does not need doing – it makes no sense to re-prioritize unnecessary work and this takes up a day a week of most people’s lives – see our save a day a a week program details.
  2. Create what alignment you reasonably can (don’t go too far) using tools like RASCI
  3. Make sure your organizational and departmental objectives are clear and published so people can keep “line of sight” on whether what they are doing contributes to this.
  4. Keep communication lines open so competing priorities can be surfaced and resolved – by escalation if necessary.

Find out more about our matrix working training which deals more with this and other topics..

How do you manage, or not manage, prioritisation in your organization?

About the author:

Kevan Hall Kevan Hall is a CEO, author, speaker and trainer in matrix management, virtual teams and global working. He is the author of "Speed Lead - faster, simpler ways to manage people, projects and teams in complex companies, "Making the Matrix work - how matrix managers engage people and cut through complexity", and the "Life in a Matrix" podcasts, videos, cartoons and blog. He is CEO and founder of Global Integration. Company profile: .

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