Thursday, April 19, 2012

[Not] Everything Is Urgent!

When projects get down to the wire, sometimes certain people (you know who they are) become prone to throwing out the rules for determining defect priority. As I previously wrote in Prioritizing Defect Reports, there are four factors that I consider when setting priority: Severity, Exposure, Business Need, and Timeframe. Unfortunately, Timeframe becomes a stumbling block when they fall prey to the terminal thought, "The deadline is right around the corner and all of these issues need to be done, therefore they are all Urgent!"

I call this a "terminal" thought because it leads to a disastrous method of project management: panic. Panic management occurs when organization goes out the window; and that's exactly what happens when all issues are prioritized the same. The priority indicator loses its value. Even when time is running short and all of the issues are crucial to launch, issues varying levels of priority and some need to be done before others. And what happens when nothing has any priority? Developers decided themselves which issues to do and when.

When we get to crunch time, I think it's appropriate to not only redefine the spans of time for the Timeframe factor but redefine the factor. Instead of thinking about a Timeframe, think about a Sequence:
  • Urgent: Drop everything and work on this
  • High: Complete before working on any lower priority issues
  • Normal and Low: After confirming with the project manager that there is nothing more important that needs to be done, concentrate on the Normal priority issues first but may incorporate Low priority issues if there's an efficiency advantage. Low priority issues are completed last.
By maintaining your system of priorities, you'll help keep your team focused and everyone will have a clearer vision of the outstanding risk in meeting the deadline.


  1. Fast, cheap and right. Choose two to the exclusion of the other.

    Me, my career has always had me teetering on the edge of project management.

    And always be prepared to say no.

    1. Ah yes, the triple constraint! Sometimes I wonder if it's anything more than a fantasy because I feel better acquainted with the inverse: slow, expensive, and wrong.