People depend on you for many things every day. There are work deadlines, deliverables and milestones, and it can be overwhelming when things start to stack up.
My experience managing projects has taught me that it is vital you are crystal clear about your stakeholders’ most important requirements to successfully juggle multiple, often competing priorities. A project management framework I use focuses on four flexible constraints in a project: cost, time, scope and quality. The idea is that if one of these constraints changes in a project, one or more of the others will need to adjust to compensate. For example, if the time available to complete the project decreases, then the cost may go up, the scope may need to reduce, or the quality of the finished product may need to be compromised.
A useful application of this framework is to understand what the non-negotiables are for your key stakeholders. Asking them at the start of a project whether delivering to budget, delivering on time, delivering within scope or achieving a certain minimum quality is most important to them will help you align your work effort to their expectations.
While this is a great framework to use when working on complex projects, it can also be simplified and used with day-to-day operational work. The two constraints generally associated with our everyday work are probably time and quality. When a piece of work has been delegated to you, at some point you may need to have a conversation about which is more important to the delegator. Obviously, we all want the work to be on time and to the highest quality. But if that cannot be achieved, would it be better to be on time but not quite as good, or a bit late with no compromise on quality?
This might not be a conversation you have when the work is first delegated. But it should be a conversation you have when you spot a deadline that is at risk of being missed. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Put your hand up, be accountable and have the conversation. Your boss and colleagues will appreciate it, because in the end you are thinking of their best interests.