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Prioritise and Thrive

Prioritisation is no new concept, so why has it recently become the hot topic in business? Well, most companies who just managed to keep their lights on during the COVID-19 pandemic are now confronted with immense pressure to recuperate losses and recover. To make things more challenging, a lot of companies must do this with LESS people than before the pandemic.

When leaders prioritise with purpose and conviction, and those priorities engage the people who do the work creating curiosity that inspires to align to a strong clearly articulated vison, remarkable things can be achieved.

I’ve provided some examples below to emphasise the importance of prioritisation. As you will discover setting the right priorities can make or break a company…

During the 1990’s, after anticipating that digital photography would eventually replace film photography, Kodak invested billions of dollars and resources into developing the technology and devices to fulfill the escalating market. However, wanting to preserve the film photography for as long as possible, they chose to advertise and promote the use of film cameras instead of creating and releasing these new digital devices to the world.  In 2012, Kodak couldn’t keep up with their competitors who had established themselves earlier in the digital market and filed for bankruptcy after over 120 years of business.

Where did they go wrong?

They FAILED to prioritise. They could foresee the market changing and they did not adapt. They ignorantly disregarded feedback from the market, and they prioritised the wrong things. Kodak had the technology and resources to become trailblazers in digital photography, but instead chose to prioritise the preservation of film photography which caused their collapse.

Play doh is an interesting example of a business completely changing its focus and reprioritising to survive. In the 1930’s play doh was sold as a cleaning product called Kutol Product used for removing coal residue from wallpapers! It was natural, free from chemicals and the right texture to remove substance from the walls without it sticking or staining them. By the 1950’s vinyl wallpaper (which was cleaned simply and effectively by soap and water) was becoming more popular, and oil and gas heating was becoming more prevalent leaving play doh to discover a way to progress with the world. They saw its potential as a children’s product after becoming aware of teachers using the product for arts and crafts. They shifted their priority to reworking the product by removing detergents and adding scents and bright colours. It was sold under a new company called Rainbow Crafts and was rebranded and marketed to schools and promoted at education conventions, and eventually broke into the toy industry.

How did they succeed?

Prioritisation is a sweet spot of mine, I could offer tips and advice until the cows come home, but fundamentally these are the areas to consider when you set your priorities.

Consider the Vision and Purpose when setting goals.

With your vision and purpose in mind, what are the big chunks of goals that will shift the dial to achieve that imaginable future? These goals must be specific and centred around all aspects of your business from strategy, planning and execution and across core operations, continual improvement, growth and blue sky – the stuff you dont even know you will to do yet to meet the demand that people dont know they have yet.  And it all needs to make a profit and be purposeful to a need in the market while balancing well being and a true sense of care for the environment and human experiences, you, them and us.

Strategic Portfolio.

Is the path you are on now taking you to the aspirational future you have defined? Consider what investments should be stopped, started, accelerated, merged or tweaked. Have a small team developing these portfolio recommendations create the right governance with the right trusted conversation to manage the risk of deferred value. There is an art and a science to prioritisation models, ideally you have one prioritisation model, but you may find it is easier, more efficient, to start with two or three for differing areas of the business and different governance and funding pools, but work hard at streamlining over time to create one holistic prioritisation model to suit all needs.  Its actually not that hard if you keep if fact based and ground it to analytics and science. Create one or more prioritisation models, align your investments to objectives, decide on no more than 5 tags by which you wish to view your investments (up to 5 differing lens). Tag your change impacts from those investments. See what magic appears on your screen then apply your prioritisation model(s).

Develop your Teams.

Get the right people and teams working on the right tasks at the right time to maximise productivity. Ensure each role has clarity in where their responsibilities start and end to keep everyone in their swim lane. Make it clear that people can switch swim lanes and overtake but in a fair and values based approach and lead by example.  Ensure everyone is aligned and engaged to the process, if they are not, take action. Ensuring your team is on board to the vision is critical.  Once they align to the vision and they know the swim lane they are in – they will do the rest.  You hire good people, enable them to do their job lead by leaders that are respected and whom people aspire to and are inspired by.  Celebrate successes as well as learnings.

Measure success on outputs.

Although it’s easier to focus on inputs (cost, scope and time) as a measure for success, challenge yourself to track your outputs (impact, benefit and outcomes). Your outputs are where you can determine success in prioritisation.  Align your portfolio success on the outputs, not on inputs as is how many of the ‘old timers’ determine success.

Don’t Delay.

Calculate the cost of delay. Prolonged decision making could cost your opportunities, revenue and your relevance in the market. While it is essential to be thorough in the planning stages of re-prioritising your business it equally important to make a start.

Over the years I have seen a lot of leaders who simply don’t make decisions in a timely manner, and worse, they do not know the cost of such delays. There are so many examples of inefficient use of peoples time to solve a problem or exploit an opportunity but delays in just making a decision and go for it.  Post COVID this needs to change. Considering your goals and prioritising with what must be done, how it has to be done and utilising your resources most effectively is the most efficient way to thrive in the current climate.  And please, everyone should know the average cost of a person per day to the business, particularly leaders. Put a value on delayed decision making – opportunity cost.  5 days delay in making a decision for a team of 5 people with an average cost per day of 1,000 AUD per person = 25K for the week.  Keep a tally of approx how much is being ‘lost’ via opportunity costs of delayed decision making, how long it takes to resolve issues, how long it takes to agree a mitigation – let alone put the mitigation into play.
Be efficient and know the daily cost of any delay in your business.  Create a sense of urgency.

“No business can do everything. Even if it has the money, it will never have enough good people. It has to set priorities. The worst thing to do is a little bit of everything. This makes sure that nothing is being accomplished. It is better to pick the wrong priority than none at all.’

– Peter Drucker

Ferne Eliz King


Want to learn more?

I specialise in prioritising and sequencing initiatives, projects, programs to facilitate businesses to achieve their aspirational future along with easy and clear practices to manage strategic change and tactical change.

I have over 30 years’ experience as a globally renowned consultant and have managed over 2.5 billion in programs of work as well as set up complex portfolio management offices.

My goal is to help individuals and businesses of all sizes achieve their aspirational future with key focuses on:

  • Prioritising and sequencing to achieve goals; essentially doing the right things, at the right time, in the right way
  • Critical thinking for strategic and tactical change
  • Shift in mindset, principles, and practices
  • Attain clarity in your focus, improved prioritisation and decision making
  • Advice for merger and acquisitions – day one readiness and beyond

To learn more follow me through Patreon https://www.patreon.com/FerneElizKing888

Alternatively, you can contact me for a 1:1 coaching session.

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Ferne Eliz King

About Ferne

My superpower is to ignite change and inspire actions to achieve the imaginable future of individuals and businesses. The first step is facilitating you to unlock your curiosity.


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