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Get Your Manager To Prioritize Your Tasks

Filed Under Software Process

Incorrect task prioritizing by clients and product managers can have a devastating affect on project success. At the end of your deadline, if core functionality has not been delivered the project will be declared a failure. How are you to know what is core functionality when all tasks are marked at the highest priority? We have to remember that tasks are managed by sequenced lists and not a single number.

For example, this is not a priority list:

Task Priority
Build print driver 1
Change button text from ‘Go’ to ‘Go Now!’ 1
Create Web Service integration tests 1

Non-sequential task management is the equivalent of having a community bucket of uncompleted tasks. This is dangerous because it is easier for feature creep to occur. After all, another drop in the bucket never hurt anything…

Additionally, the above example is a good indication that your client or manager does not understand which tasks will prove the hardest to implement. As a result, clients will over-prioritize tasks that are ‘fresh in their head’ or are tangible such as UI modifications and bug reports.

Instead here is a better one:

Task Priority
Create Web Service integration tests 1
Build print driver 2
Change button text from ‘Go’ to ‘Go Now!’ 3

So what can the common developer do to combat weak priority sheets?

Don’t ask, demand that you receive a sequentially ordered task list that is updated daily or weekly. A common manager response to this demand is “I don’t have time to do that!”. Really? You don’t have time to manage your people? That response is a sign of laziness or incompetence. It is their job to give you clear direction so you can be a time efficient developer.

Another rule that you must enforce is that all new ideas must be added to the bottom of the list. In an agile world the motto ’embrace change’ is great, but it is very common for clients to focus on immediate needs thus forgetting about the original core requirements. If left unmanaged clients will concentrate massive amounts of your time and budget on immediate non-essential items leaving you delivering late when the core requirements are left to be done.

Correctly ordered tasks can help you become a more efficient developer. They will give you focus on uncompleted tasks and insight to what is important to the client. Don’t be shy to share this post to your client or manager, they appreciate feedback on how to manage your time more efficiently. Your time is their money.

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One Response to “Get Your Manager To Prioritize Your Tasks”

  1. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize, … « One Yoxel on August 15th, 2007 2:39 pm

    […] 15th, 2007 Commenting on the article by Max Pool, Get Your Manager To Prioritize Your Tasks, I would just […]

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