Prioritization of Project Objectives

There are many out there who are vehement in their support of agile over conventional project methods, as if success hinged on adopting only one of these over the other.  The truth is, project management is not operations, and you will find yourself in situations where one or the other will not work.


One of the premises of agile is to have a prioritized product backlog.  Many may not know this as a function of seeing things in the real world; however conventional project management is supposed to employ this prioritization technique to ensure we focus our time on the most important portions of the product to be delivered.  Yet this frequently does not happen in conventional projects.


I will continue by telling a story. This story is about a company that employs a conventional stage gate approach to product development.  A new project comes in and the managers review the technical details and congregate at a meeting site to discuss. One of the managers mentions the size and number of projects presently going through the organization and the size of the scope in this project gave him great concern as to whether or not this scope could be delivered in the desired time.  There was not dissenting opinion offered by the other managers.  One of the managers spoke up, and said; “why don’t we ask the project sponsor to priorities the most important 3 things in the scope and see if we can make it fit”.  The lead of the managers acknowledged the merit in this approach but replied; “the sponsor is asking for all of these features in the scope, we are going to work to meet all of the features in the time allotted”.  The story goes on and so does the schedule, as in not delivered on time, not even the highest priority items.


It is not enough for the doctrine or the book to define how things should be done.  We must consider how it is done and actually set about doing it.  To be sure there is no debate on the reason for prioritization of the project scope, not matter what method (agile or conventional project management) you employ.  If we ignore this counsel it may not be the method that is broken.  Poor execution can lead to poor results no matter the method.

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