5 Ways to Effectively Manage Shifting Priorities

No matter how closely you are managing a project, there are certain factors even the most experienced project managers simply cannot control.  There could be changing legislation that means the deadline on one project is brought forward while another is pushed back. Alternatively, last minute client requests or deadline changes could lead to a shift in priorities and the swift reallocation of resources. Managing your people and their skills also presents its own challenges.

Common resource planning problems such as competition for resources, scope creep and changing risks are three constant headaches for project managers that can lead to shifting project priorities. In this post, we’ll take a look at 5 ways to take these shifting priorities in your stride.

1. Don’t take shifting priorities personally

In the workplace, egos can often get in the way of successful project delivery. If a project you are managing is at risk of being cancelled or being put on the backburner, do not take it personally. This is all part of working for an agile organisation and being a team player. Take pride in what you have accomplished to date and continue to give your best to every opportunity that comes your way.

2. Maintain your focus

Don’t be thrown off kilter by shifting priorities. Your project’s scope or delivery date might have changed, but you still need to deliver a successful outcome that’s on budget and within the agreed timescale. You should review the project charter and scope so you can move forward with confidence. Relying on governance, change control and risk management processes will provide the checks and balances you need to stay on track.

3. Communicate clearly with senior management

Frequent changes in priority usually result from a project scope change, which directly impacts on both cost and schedule. This is true for both large and small scale projects. Communicating the severity of the impact to both your team and senior management is crucial to maintaining the project’s profitability. Frequent shifts in priorities can be due to the nature of the business, but they can also be down to poor management. For this reason, it’s essential the management understand the impact the changing priorities will have.

4. Find the right project resource management software

When priorities shift frequently and unpredictably in line with the direction of the company or the changing requirements of clients, project resource management software can really come into its own. A package that is able to support numerous projects simultaneously, has a flexible priority system and an estimated timescale can help you adapt to the shifting project landscape. If you are still using excel spreadsheets to manage your resourcing maybe its time to consider other options.

5. Track the progress of projects closely

Again, cloud-based PSA software should be used to track the progress of multiple projects. Include important details such as dates, milestones, suppliers, contractors, team members and any other resources that are necessary for the project. If your priorities change and your skills are needed elsewhere, you’ll be able to come back to the existing project and know exactly where you are.

5 ways to effectively manage shifting priorities

  1. Don't take it personally
  2. Maintain focus
  3. Communicate clearly with senior management
  4. Find the right project resource management software
  5. Track the progress of projects closely

Keeping these tips in mind will help to manage the inevitable shifting priorities you’ll have to overcome as a project manager. It’s important to remember that your over-arching priority is the continuing success and growth of the organisation. Your working life as a project manager in an agile organisation is not necessarily going to be without bumps in the road, but you can still contribute as an extremely effective cog in the wheel.

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