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Prioritize Your Strategic Initiatives: Here's How to Do It

In today's fast-paced business environment, the ability to prioritize strategic initiatives is essential for success. As the saying goes, "When everything is a priority, then nothing is." While we understand this conceptually, the actual act of prioritizing can be challenging.


a sticky note with the words 'strategic prioritization' sits atop some charts

This article aims to explore the importance of prioritization, highlighting its core elements, and actionable methods for effective implementation in decision-making endeavors.


Establishing Criteria

Criteria serve as benchmarks for comparing and evaluating ideas. For instance, consider the case of a volunteer leader at a large hospital who manages requests for volunteer placements. To streamline this process, the Volunteer Director develops a criteria sheet. They identified essential qualifications, such as alignment with key hospital initiatives, required volunteer numbers, and training responsibilities. Additionally, they listed desirable traits like physical location and an inclusive management approach. Next, the director prioritized these criteria, determining which were most important. This approach provided clear guidelines for assessing incoming requests for volunteers or new programs, enhancing efficiency and decision-making.



an in focus business leader stands resolute arms crossed

Having clear criteria for decision-making is crucial, as it ensures that all stakeholders understand and agree on the standards set forth. This not only fosters transparency but also minimizes any potential conflicts or misunderstandings.

Moreover, discussions about criteria help illuminate the values held by individuals, which are essential for building consensus and making informed decisions, whether by individuals or groups.


 

Criteria to consider when prioritizing strategic initiatives may include:

Financial Resources:

  • Budget constraints

  • Funding availability

  • Cost-effectiveness

 

Time Constraints:

  • Project timelines

  • Urgency of implementation

  • Time required for completion

 

Human Resources:

  • Staff availability

  • Skillset requirements

  • Training needs

 

Safety Considerations:

  • Compliance with safety regulations

  • Potential risks to stakeholders

  • Occupational health and safety concerns

 

Risk Assessment:

  • Likelihood of success

  • Potential impact on organizational goals

  • Mitigation strategies

 

Understanding Prioritization

Prioritization is a fundamental aspect of business strategy decision-making. 


According to the Business Analysis Book of Knowledge (BABOK), “prioritization provides a framework for business analysts to facilitate stakeholder decisions and understand the relative importance of insights gathered through analysis”. In simpler terms, prioritization helps guide stakeholders in decision-making and highlights the significance of the insights obtained.


Prioritization aids in consensus building, trade-offs, and ensuring that the initiative meets its timelines and achieves its intended outcomes.

 

Best Practices

When it comes to prioritization, certain best practices can enhance its effectiveness:


  • Involve Stakeholders: It's crucial to involve as many stakeholders as possible in the prioritization process to ensure buy-in and alignment with organizational goals.


  • Refer to Metrics: Prioritization activities can be subjective, so it's essential to reference metrics and key performance indicators to support decision-making.


  • Identify Criteria: Determine the importance of various factors such as value, risk, and implementation difficulty to establish clear criteria for prioritization.

How to Prioritize Strategic Initiatives

There are several approaches to prioritization.


In the context of strategic initiatives, prioritization is essential for the Volunteer Director to effectively allocate resources and focus efforts on the most impactful projects. Here are four approaches to prioritization, each with its own benefits and suitable scenarios:


Prioritization Approach #1 | Grouping

Description: Grouping involves sorting insights into predetermined categories like high, medium, and low importance.


Example: The Volunteer Director can categorize strategic initiatives into groups based on their alignment with key hospital initiatives. For instance, initiatives directly related to improving the bedside patient experience may be classified as a high priority, while those focusing on workforce development may be given a medium priority, and those focusing on events a low priority.

 

Prioritization Approach #2 | Ranking

Description: Ranking involves organizing insights based on their importance, with the most crucial items listed first.


Example: The Volunteer Director can rank strategic initiatives based on the number of volunteers required. Initiatives requiring a large number of volunteers may be ranked higher, as they have a more significant impact on hospital operations.

 

Prioritization Approach #3  | Time Boxing/Budgeting

Description: Time boxing or budgeting prioritizes insights based on the allocation of fixed resources such as time and money.


Example: The Volunteer Director can prioritize strategic initiatives based on the available time for implementation. For instance, initiatives that can be executed within a short timeframe may be given higher priority, as they allow the hospital to see results more quickly. Conversely, initiatives that require extensive time commitments may be deprioritized or broken down into smaller, more manageable tasks. This approach ensures that the Volunteer Director maximizes the use of available time resources and focuses efforts on initiatives that can be completed efficiently.


four business leaders around a table with their hands all in to the center, one looks directly at the camera

Prioritization Approach #4 | Negotiation

Description: The negotiation approach entails reaching a consensus among stakeholders regarding the criteria to be emphasized.


Example: The Volunteer Director can engage in negotiations with other department leaders to determine the priority of strategic initiatives. By discussing the potential impact of each initiative on hospital operations and patient care, stakeholders can collectively decide on the most critical projects to pursue.

 

Consider Audience Needs

When selecting a prioritization approach, it's essential to consider the needs and opinions of the audience. This ensures that the chosen method aligns with their values and objectives, leading to more effective decision-making.


In the previous Volunteer Director example, the best approach must consider the needs and preferences of various stakeholders involved. For example, the hospital's administration, nursing staff, and volunteers themselves may have different perspectives on what constitutes a valuable initiative.


The Volunteer Director could engage in discussions with these stakeholders to understand their priorities and concerns. For instance, the nursing staff may emphasize initiatives that directly support patient care, while volunteers may prioritize programs that offer flexible scheduling options. By considering the needs of each audience group, the Volunteer Director can ensure that the chosen prioritization approach aligns with their expectations and maximizes stakeholder buy-in.



Revisit and Revise

Lastly, it's crucial to reassess priorities and adapt to changes in the business environment. This flexibility allows organizations to respond promptly to evolving needs and ensure that strategic initiatives remain aligned with overarching goals.


Summary

This how-to guide explores the importance of setting clear criteria and employing effective approaches to prioritize strategic initiatives. It discusses how grouping, ranking, time boxing, and negotiation aid decision-making. By considering audience needs and revisiting priorities, organizations can allocate resources efficiently and achieve goals effectively. Real-world examples illustrate practical application, empowering leaders to drive success.

 
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Roseanna Galindo is Principal at Periscope Business Process Analysis and a champion for data literacy, the human experience in healthcare, and leaders of volunteers everywhere.

Learn more about Roseanna and her blog, The Periscope Insighter, by reading the opening post, Venn The Time Is Right

Roseanna is available for training, keynotes, and executive coaching. Visit PeriscopeBPA.com for more information or click on the button below to schedule a time to talk.



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