Faust: Slaying The Tyranny Of The Urgent Dragon

Have you ever felt like you were jumping from one fire to another  through a day, a week or even a month? Does your team speak of being really busy, but you still sense an opportunity to amp up results to a whole new level?

If you or your team ever fall victim to the “Tyranny of the Urgent,” then consider slaying this dragon by using the “Prioritization Sprint.” It can help you rank, in order, objectives for your business and your individual team members.

A main theme of Stephen Covey’s time-management research and writings was the importance of putting more resources toward non-urgent but high-importance work—what he called quadrant 2. Here’s an overview of Covey’s four quadrants: 1) high importance, high urgency; 2) high importance, low urgency; 3) low importance, high urgency; and 4) low importance, low urgency.

In working with top management, sales staff and sometimes an entire company, we find it critical to clarify priorities for all areas of importance. The next four are usually the top ones to consider. Sprint as fast as you can to prioritize, in order, the top three items to six items in each area.

Problem-Solving Opportunities And Innovation Initiatives. Constraints should always be listed and prioritized for organizations and departments. Doing so will give focus to problem-solving and innovation initiatives. Just the process of debating what problems are having the most impact on your organization will not only illuminate what is slowing down the team, but it also may lead to reprioritizing the growth objectives for the company.

Growth Objectives. As I detail in my books, there are seven essential areas of objectives (market and marketing, innovation, cultural, resources, productivity, community and social responsibility and profit requirements) for which all organizations must set priorities; not one area can be ignored. The resulting list can be overwhelming and not communicate what will have the greatest impact, so it is critical to prioritize the ones most important as related to growth. Your efforts will give the rest of the organization insight to the direction of the company and help individuals set better priorities. 

Strategic Abandonment. Facilitating the above identifies a lot of new work for an already-busy organization; thus, something must usually give. This is why strategic abandonment is just as important as objectives clarification. As management consultant Peter Drucker often said, “The most important time-management question isn’t ‘what is the most important thing for me to be doing now,’ but ‘what must I stop doing?’”

Sales. Prioritizing customers to retain and identifying new sales prospects to pursue help sales teams understand who is the most valuable type of customer for the organization to get and keep.

If you can identify the top three to six items in each of the four categories, then you will help slay the dragon.  


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