Project Management

Ruthless Prioritization

Dharma Mehta

There is an art and a science to knowing when to say “no.” Let’s say a company wants to bring a new cell phone to market. Leadership gives the project team a list of 100 features to develop and a ten-month timeframe. Both the budget and the size of the team are limited.

Knowing there is no way to develop a quality version of the requested product before the deadline, it is up to the project manager to sit down with cross-functional leaders and individuals directly responsible to decide which features are essential and which should get a “no.” If prioritization is focusing resources on the tasks with the greatest impact, ruthless prioritization is letting go of anything that does not bring progress toward the ideal end state—no matter how shiny or tempting it may be.

Remove sentiment from the equation

Every day, a new competitor enters the market. Every day, a competitor announces a new product or feature. Every day, the economy changes. This is no time to be sentimental. Ruthless prioritization means putting emotions aside and realizing all that matters is reaching the end goal and fulfilling the internal or external customers’ needs.

“Lots of times you have very good ideas,” said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg when describing ruthless prioritization. “But they’re not as good as the most important thing you could be doing. And you have to make the hard choices.”

A …

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