Guiding Quote

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Einstein

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Prioritization confusion: A fractal sign

One of the first sign that management has lost the plot is when they are incapable of prioritizing projects.

Once when working as a consultant I had an engagement with a manufacturing company in Bolton, UK. During a tour of the factory I was shown the production controller's office. In there I saw the production schedule board, on that board where displayed all the current work orders with their individual priorities. I noticed that the majority of the orders had a red tag against them, and a large number had two red tags.
I asked the obvious question, "What do the red tags mean?" And I was told that it meant they had the highest priority.
"And the double tags?"
"That's because we had so many red tagged orders that we had to introduce a higher priority, an ultra priority, as it were."
So as a consultant I could see where I could make an easy win. Further as I continued my investigations I discovered that the inability to prioritize the work schedule was systematic of the management team's chaotic style. It wasn't an aberration it was a standard practice. It was a classic example of management fractals: Chaos at the top resulting in chaos at the bottom.

Now in case you think this is a problem confined to manufacturing let me tell you about an episode just before the holidays. I'm in a software management meeting when two department heads said that their different projects were the company's number one priority and that they had first call on key resources. Both were shocked to discover that the other project had a same priority, me, not so much. The senior management has a record of defining multiple number ones in all its activities. Their indecision flows down through the organization. They exhibit fractal management symptoms and, like all such managements, they don't realize it. Prioritization for them is a word, not a practice.

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