Professional project management for your long-term growth and success

Want to Avoid Team Burnout? Start Prioritizing Your Projects ASAP

By Veronica Thraen / March 1, 2017

“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” ― Stephen R. Covey


Ever wonder why some teams are always so busy but nothing ever seems to get done? It could be because projects are not being properly vetted and/or priorities are frequently changing.

This situation gets even more challenging as a company grows. How can a team be productive when they have a never-ending list of projects that are all top priority? They usually end up selecting the easiest items to complete first or begin working on the most urgent item du jour. The result is a team constantly pulled in many changing directions and driven to frustration—a sure recipe for burnout.

So, how do you ensure that teams are working on the right things to move your company forward and prevent frustration? The first step is to determine what constitutes a project. 

Define What a Project Is

Every company has its own way of defining a project. Some base it on length of time involved, complexity or potential impact. Others define new implementations as projects or by how many individuals or teams will be required to complete it. It could also be a combination of all of these factors and more.

Once you’ve determined the criteria for a new project, it’s time to review and prioritize. Here are 5 additional steps to help make this process a little less tedious:

Identify “Who” Should Review, Approve and Prioritize

The person or persons responsible for reviewing and approving work items need to have the knowledge and insight into what’s most important for company growth. Understanding the market for the product or service and company goals and objectives is crucial. Someone who frequently changes direction or wants to work on every single customer request immediately only exacerbates the situation.

Determine “How” to Prioritize

This can be as simple as assigning priorities 1, 2 and 3 but you’ll need to define the types of projects that fall into those categories. For example, a priority 1 could be a project that impacts customers. There are also various scoring methods that can help assess the importance of a project – i.e. strategic alignment, value to customer, etc. 

Communicate the Plan

It’s important for all teams to understand why the new process is being implemented and how it will benefit them. You will more than likely run into some skepticism or resistance to change; however, once the team experiences the results of the new process, they will realize that they are much more productive and will trust that what they are working on will actually provide value.

Adhere to the Process

This is the most critical and challenging part of implementing any new process. I’ve seen good process fall by the wayside because management does not follow the process themselves. Problem is, if they won’t follow the process, why should anyone else? You must have executive support to help enforce it; otherwise, you are just going to be spinning your wheels.

Maintain for Continued Success

Now that teams are working on the right projects, you need to ensure that this momentum continues. Scheduling a standing backlog review meeting on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis will help you keep up with new project requests, as well as reviewing the pending items. You may find that some of the pending items are no longer required or the priority needs to be adjusted.

A little planning works wonders to improve efficiency and productivity. A team focused on a long-term common goal not only drives the company to succeed, it motivates them to succeed.

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