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Topics: Business Intelligence, Change Management, Resource Management
Prioritizing project task
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As a project manager knowing how to prioritize task affects the overall success of the project, the engagement level of the team, and the role of the PM as a leader.

How do you prioritize task when everything is urgent or how do you determine what to prioritize?
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Project Schedule Management Knowledge area as per PMBOK Guide 5th Edition
has the following discrete steps

Plan Schedule Management
Define Activities
Sequence Activities
Estimate Activity Resources
Estimate Activity Duration
Develop Schedule

Sequence Activities is a key step because it helps you build the Schedule Network Diagram. The diagram will tell you which activity will be the predecessor and which one would be the successor . It will also help you determine alternate paths to achieve the project objectives and find you the critical path of your project, which is the shortest path (Duration) from the start to the end of the project.

Not to mention , also helps you determine Finish to Start (FS), Start to Start (SS), Finish to Finish (FF) and Start to Finish (SF) dependencies. MS Project will also let you define these dependencies.

You can control the schedule through Resource smoothing and Leveling activities.
once you have done this on paper , you can leverage MS Project to help you build your milestones , activities, overall schedule etc.

Also useful is the concept of Rolling Wave Planning. If you are able to break down a work Package, that you know , needs to be executed in the very near future, you can break that work down into detailed activities and leave the later work package at a higher level. As you get deeper into the planning phase, you will identify more details around a work package and can then elaborate it further.
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1 reply by Anish Abraham
Dec 05, 2017 5:26 PM
Anish Abraham
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Thanks for the info.
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Prioritization is complex. Some things to consider: is the task time sensitive, cost sensitive, scope sensitive, quality sensitive etc? These can help in determining priority. Also, what deliverable does the task belong too? The deliverable could be associated with a requirement that was deemed a very high priority by the team, sponsor or key stakeholders. These will be in the requirements documentation, and you can also look at the acceptance criteria, which can also effect prioritization. Risk too can effect the priority of tasks. If the foundation is going to support a 30 level building, I think the foundation might be a priority over say painting the facade.
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1 reply by Anish Abraham
Dec 05, 2017 11:23 AM
Anish Abraham
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Thanks Sante for your feedback.

I think that If the tasks that seem to tie for priority standing, then it's better to check their estimates, and start on whichever the project team think will take the most effort to complete.
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It depends on the type, size, complexity of project, and the number of people involved. For projects with many resources, if the PM is prioritizing tasks - it is a problem.

If the PMT do a proper breakdown of the project work and proper scheduling, then all tasks should be on the schedule, or at least the major work packages. With clear work, task management would be easier and each team member should be able to prioritize their personal tasks.

Again, if the PM is getting into that level of details than something is wrong.

To add to Sante - prioritization should be a factor of importance and urgency so you can use a matrix to help you with this. You can also use tools, like Trello.

Now, if everything is urgent and you work in that culture, that is a symptom or lack of proper planning and you need to identify the root causes and solve them.
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1 reply by Anish Abraham
Dec 05, 2017 11:24 AM
Anish Abraham
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Thank Mounir for your insight and valuable feedback. I really appreciate it.
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Combination of input/insights from the customers - value-focused, and input/insights from the development lead/team - technically focused. Some tasks simply must happen in a specific sequence, while others can be maneuvered as needed.

This is where trust/influence with your stakeholders comes into play. Understand their core needs and have data to support your recommendations (combination of above).

And as Mounir says, if everything is urgent, different conversations and actions need to happen :)
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1 reply by Anish Abraham
Dec 05, 2017 11:15 AM
Anish Abraham
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Thanks Andrew for your insight on this.

My understanding is that PM needs to figure out what is urgent and what is important, and see whether if there is any task that needs immediate attention. For example missed client deadline or missed performance reports etc.
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First of all, task must not be prioritized if you are talking about scheduling. The task duration and relation with other tasks will give you the priority. Second, "everything is urgent" is a fallacy by definition of urgent. You have to work on the definition of urgent or the perception of urgent inside your organization. Including yourselves. There is no other way to deal with that.
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1 reply by Anish Abraham
Dec 05, 2017 1:23 PM
Anish Abraham
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Thanks Sergio for your feedback.
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Prioritization of task require complete knowledge, details , size, complexity of project and priority of stakeholders will define the prioritization of tasks in projects.
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1 reply by Anish Abraham
Dec 05, 2017 5:27 PM
Anish Abraham
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Thanks for the info
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Everyone will tell you their task is urgent. It is up to you to decide what is actually urgent and by what degree.
Also, no matter how urgent a task may be, if you do not have the resource available to handle that task today, then it cannot be done today.
You can prioritize the tasks based on the risk of what will happen if the task is not completed immediately. Task 1 - company will lose $100,000. Task 2 - release of new product will be delayed by 2 weeks and company may lose $15,000 in sales. Task 3 - business partner is upset.
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1 reply by Anish Abraham
Dec 05, 2017 11:08 AM
Anish Abraham
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Thanks Dinah for your valuable feedback.

Yes, I completely agree that I need to prioritize task based on the risk. First of all assess the value of the risk and look at the important task and identify what carries the highest value to the business and organization.
Network:1432



Dec 05, 2017 9:24 AM
Replying to Dinah Young
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Everyone will tell you their task is urgent. It is up to you to decide what is actually urgent and by what degree.
Also, no matter how urgent a task may be, if you do not have the resource available to handle that task today, then it cannot be done today.
You can prioritize the tasks based on the risk of what will happen if the task is not completed immediately. Task 1 - company will lose $100,000. Task 2 - release of new product will be delayed by 2 weeks and company may lose $15,000 in sales. Task 3 - business partner is upset.
Thanks Dinah for your valuable feedback.

Yes, I completely agree that I need to prioritize task based on the risk. First of all assess the value of the risk and look at the important task and identify what carries the highest value to the business and organization.
Network:1432



Dec 05, 2017 6:08 AM
Replying to Andrew Craig
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Combination of input/insights from the customers - value-focused, and input/insights from the development lead/team - technically focused. Some tasks simply must happen in a specific sequence, while others can be maneuvered as needed.

This is where trust/influence with your stakeholders comes into play. Understand their core needs and have data to support your recommendations (combination of above).

And as Mounir says, if everything is urgent, different conversations and actions need to happen :)
Thanks Andrew for your insight on this.

My understanding is that PM needs to figure out what is urgent and what is important, and see whether if there is any task that needs immediate attention. For example missed client deadline or missed performance reports etc.
Network:1432



Dec 05, 2017 4:40 AM
Replying to Sante Vergini
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Prioritization is complex. Some things to consider: is the task time sensitive, cost sensitive, scope sensitive, quality sensitive etc? These can help in determining priority. Also, what deliverable does the task belong too? The deliverable could be associated with a requirement that was deemed a very high priority by the team, sponsor or key stakeholders. These will be in the requirements documentation, and you can also look at the acceptance criteria, which can also effect prioritization. Risk too can effect the priority of tasks. If the foundation is going to support a 30 level building, I think the foundation might be a priority over say painting the facade.
Thanks Sante for your feedback.

I think that If the tasks that seem to tie for priority standing, then it's better to check their estimates, and start on whichever the project team think will take the most effort to complete.
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