Dear PM Advisor. March 18, 2013

Dear PM Advisor, I really see the value in prioritizing all the projects we are trying to accomplish but senior staff keeps blowing off the process. Any advice?

Poor Priorities in Staten Island

Dear Poor Priorities,

I'm assuming you are in the same boat as everyone and have more project work than you can handle. If you didn't this would be no problem. You would sit at your desk, twiddling your thumbs until someone came along with some project work for you. You'd do it right away and then go back to twiddling your thumbs. But I doubt you are living in fairyland so you have a familiar problem.

You are busy working on one project when someone else comes along and asks you to do their work instead. It could be two activities from one project or from separate projects. Then a third activity comes along and then a fourth.

The fact that you are writing me to ask this question indicates that you are a dedicated worker who wants to do what is best for your company. You recognize that there are not enough hours in the day to do everything so you are trying to follow the company priority. But the people who should be making those decisions are neglecting their duties. Just like about 3/4 of the companies I deal with.

What can you do? You are not qualified to decide between the priorities of different projects so don't bother. You are qualified to know whether the activity you are working on is or is not on the critical path of its project. If it is not critical path, put that activity off for any critical path activity. If both activities are critical path, you need to prioritize the work yourself.

This is where you get to be creative. You can prioritize any way you like. Alphabetically, first in, first out, last in, first out, by which college the PM went to, whoever shouts the loudest, which softball team the PM plays for, it really is up to you. And since the senior staff is blowing off their job of prioritizing, you don't need to explain yourself to anyone.

My only advice is to prioritize your activities in a way that benefits yourself. Please the PMs who have the greatest influence on your career. Blow off the PMs who have no power. And keep in mind the work-life balance that allows you to enjoy your job.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

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