Rethink Your Priorities

Another link related to the 2011 ITLP Conference (


The first presenter was Kellogg’s Harry Kraemer, who gave a presentation on “Values-based leadership,” (Key Takeaway: Be Flexible). During this presentation he frequently talked about “Priorities” and the need to “Prioritize”. I countered with a brilliant summation of this Merlin Mann article, but like many works of genius the people were not yet ready for the experience.

A sample from Merlin’s work:

What I will tell you is that these ideas about scarcity and mutual exclusivity fly in the face of most “productivity” and “effectiveness” nonsense, and frankly, they make most people bristle. Big time. When I tell someone who’s making 10 times the salary I’ll ever make that it’s literally impossible to have seven priorities, they look at me like I’m the biggest, dumbest hippie in the world. Sheesh, right?

For the Cult of Priority folks, two things:

First, ask yourself why any “high priority” item has remained unresolved in your life for more than 60 seconds. Why isn’t it done completely? Have you ever “re-assigned” “priority” to some task? Really? Because that sounds more like procrastination than management, let alone “effective” action and decisive execution. Sounds more to me like getting paid $10,000,000 a year to re-arrange your spice rack — then wondering why your company, marriage, and back porch are all crumbling under your “prioritization.” Sounds like maybe you’re just feeling crummy about not understanding your job and your life. Once you know a tree is falling on you, you don’t take a meeting to drill down on strategies viz. arboreal exit strategies. You just run.

Also, number two — and this is a biggie — I’m staggered whenever a Director-level or higher executive claims they have 3, 5, 7, or 27 “priorities.” Because, at that level, your entire career is defined by the unbelievably great ideas that you reject. Painfully giant, wonderful, terrific opportunities that you simply don’t have the capacity to address without screwing up the real priority.

No, no, no, no, sorry, later, nope, forget it, later, no, no, no.

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