What’s your Passion #14 – Prioritization à la 1984

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No, not the book by Orwell.

This post is about a prioritization methodology from the year 1984. That’s when the first Franklin Quest day planner was introduced to the world with the classic layout:

Click image above for source

Already back then the idea of a prioritized backlog (of work) already existed in the “Prioritized Daily Task List” (image above). It was re-prioritized by the user on a daily basis (should sound familiar to most agilists).

Nothing new under the Sun.

But, the history of the idea of prioritization stretches even further back. Great leaders down through the ages have all used similar methodologies to get things done.

For example, Nehemiah already employed almost every Agile methodology in use today. Ted and I shared about that in our first Amazon best-seller, “The Nehemiah Effect: Ancient Wisdom from the World’s First Agile Projects.” We also follow-up with over 13 real-world case studies in our book “Flow: Get Everyone Moving in the Right Direction . . . and Loving It.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower used the following prioritization matrix to separate the urgent from the not urgent and the important from the not important:

My best guess is that the former President of the US was using his matrix (at least he’s given credit for it) long before he was elected President back in 1953.

Franklin Quest went on to include Eisenhower’s matrix in his task and time management system called the Franklin Day Planner (dedicated to and named after Benjamin Franklin’s time management system that Ben developed during his lifetime, all the way back in 1706-1790).

Franklin Quest’s system (first image at the top of this post) incorporated Eisenhower’s prioritization matrix so that tasks are prioritized by A (Do), B (Delegate) and C (Decide). “D” (Delete) items didn’t even make the list … which is a very lean concept for eliminating wasteful activities and tasks. The single, most powerful part of lean is eliminating waste in the value chain. Eisenhower’s matrix is a great way to do that.

Mindset always outperforms toolset.

All project and product management simply Distills down to People and Tasks. And, light and easy to communicate (and follow) principles, values and mindset-based frameworks will always out-perform top-heavy, rules-based monolithic toolsets, methodologies and/or delivery models.

And, Franklin’s approach was just one example of a simple, easy to use time and task management framework that links your daily tasks to your personal and business vision, mission, goals and objectives … and … being successful in achieving and realizing your overall vision and goals.

This is probably why most people from the business side in an organization start to scratch their heads when the tech and IT teams are so “over-the-top” enthusiastic about Agile.

Successful business leaders have already been using and implementing “agile” and “lean” thinking via approaches like Franklin (or similar) for more than the past three decades. I won’t go into how Franklin breaks down Vision, Epics, Capabilities and Features down to User Stories (i.e. Product Backlog items) and then to Tasks in this post … but, the ideas are all contained in the methodology (although he uses other labels).

A (value) chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Organizations are only as successful as the success achieved by each and every individual in that organization. If an individual can’t prioritize and deliver what is most important and valuable to their team and organization in their daily work, then the odds for failure are quite high since they have become a single point of failure. This is one of the contributing factors that has led to 58% of Agile projects failing (and up to 74% of traditional projects failing). And, even change management efforts consistently fail at a rate of around 70%.

It’s both an art and science.

There is a huge body of knowledge outside of the project management communities that is parallel to (and overlaps) the PMBOK, Scrum and Agile. Those bodies of knowledge are both rational and “high-touch” all at once. It includes the pursuit of personal and organizational excellence. Everyone wants to be on a winning team. And, the teams that have the right habits (including the pursuit of excellence in how to deliver their personal and team backlogs of work) are the ones that win:

  • “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle

If you are interested in integrating the pursuit of excellence in everything you do, that your team does (including everything that touches, Product, Program, Portfolio, Process and Line Management as well as your entire organization), then let’s chat!


PS Here are the associated links to this blog post for:

#culture #scrum #agile #pmi #pmp #kanban #lean #flow #scaledagile #transformation #change #transform