The Priority of Prioritization
Let’s face it, in corporate strategic planning, we have to choose our battles. As much as we try to stretch our limited resources, the fact remains that they’re still limited. Choosing our battles isn’t a negative thing; it merely refers to the fact that we must select the opportunities (targeted outcomes) that will earn our limited energy and resources.
So much has been written in countless management books and blogs about the importance of setting priorities in business, yet it still challenges most organizations. Prioritization is a fundamental component of the cognitive decision-making process and comes into play when selecting strategic priorities in business, based upon the outcomes that are sought through the organization’s strategy. As such, it is essential to have prioritization tools to draw upon in strategic planning and at our disposal for making routine business decisions. Prioritization goes hand-in-hand with understanding the relative value of each strategic opportunity and its associated outcomes that we have available to us to select from. Opportunity valuation removes bias from our decision making and prioritization combats the behavior of many organizations that bite off more than they can chew and suffer for it later.
For example, suppose that you were faced with the competing objectives of expanding your market to Latin America or performing R&D on a new product in support of your domestic line, but can only afford to invest in one with this year’s budget. Assume that both fall into alignment with the strategic goals of the company. Which opportunity represents the best move for the organization and how would you select? It helps if you can understand the value each opportunity represents for the business. Opportunity valuation provides a structure for measuring the relative value of potential outcomes so the organization can move forward with confidence and realism.
The results of opportunity valuation are fed directly into the process of identifying priorities and justifying those selections (see inputs to the process). After all, once you’ve measured / valued your potential corporate opportunities and strategic objectives, you’re already armed with the information you need to prioritize and justify your chosen direction(s). With accurate values placed on defined opportunities, you are ready to apply the prioritization tools of this system in developing strategic and operational plans based on organizational priorities yielding the highest value.
Ranking wants versus actual needs is important to planning so that we eliminate extraneous factors in our decision process and make choices that are right for our business. The applicability of such tools is far broader than just the executive team. Line-level managers can also benefit by learning and applying such prioritization techniques. Adopting such a process helps the organization maintain alignment to the strategy and make sensible choices during the planning process with more ease.
Whether in time management or corporate strategic planning, the point remains: We must know our priorities and focus on the projects and opportunities that represent our highest priorities. The saying, “Do your best and forget the rest” is somewhat applicable in this context. A strategic prioritization process helps focus your resources and energy on your best opportunities and set the others aside for the time being. In the face of competing corporate agendas, a strategic valuation and prioritization system is essential in selecting the right opportunities to pursue at this time and for providing justification for management’s choices. As such, prioritization is a vital part of an effective corporate planning process.
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