Project Management Tips

14. I'm afraid I might not be able to deliver every piece of my project by the deadline, how can I get agreement on the priority of PARTS of the project?


It is not uncommon for a project to simply be too big or too complex to be delivered in its entirety by the deadline. In these cases, there is usually a way to deliver some (or most) of the output by the deadline and continue to provide the remainder once the initial pieces have been handed off. The problem is deciding which pieces are the most critical or most useful ? basically, where to put the limited resources for the greatest impact in the shortest time.


A Priority Matrix can be a useful tool for this. A Priority Matrix is a simple two-axis matrix in which the key features or functions of the project deliverable are listed and prioritize according to their importance.


List the features or functions down the left of the matrix. Limit the list to five or fewer items. Trying to prioritize every feature or function of a project is not only much more difficult, it is usually unnecessary. For most projects, there are a few critical features that must be included. All the others are simply enhancements or supporting pieces for these key items. Determine the five top features or functions. Create a set of five columns to the right of the features list. Head the columns 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 respectively.


Prioritize the list with only one feature or function at each priority level. This is the key to this tool. Each item must have its own position in the priority structure. There cannot be two number 1 priorities. Once all the items have been prioritized, circulate the Priority Matrix among the stakeholders and customers of the project. You can add a list for their sign off if desired. Disagreements about the order of priority should be addressed and the final list approved by everyone.


The goal is to gain general agreement as to which features should take priority over which other features if all work cannot be completed by the deadline. The finalized Priority Matrix becomes a tool for decision-making about which PARTS to focus on as the project unfolds.

When building your Priority Matrix, let Project KickStart's easy-to-read, easy-to-update Gantt chart help you decide which are the most critical aspects of your project.


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Jeff Crow is a Portland, Oregon consultant and trainer. He conducts seminars and workshops on project management and organizational development for corporations and through the Professional Development Center at Portland State University.

Find out about Jeff's on-site workshops.


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