One Priority Comes Prior to the Other

August 10, 2008

As @TWalk pointed out during a Twitter exchange, that’s why it’s called a ‘priority’. The root word is prior.

I understand the desire to reap maximum goodness from any endeavor in business. A business might monetize a Web site by selling both transactional products (to the visitors) and advertising (to parties who value the attention of the visitors). As an executive, you want to avoid tunnel vision and maximize all potential revenue streams.

But when your operational teams ask for help in setting priorities, help them.

An executive who routinely responds to questions about priorities with ‘both’ or ‘all of the above’ probably thinks that she or he is tuned into the big picture in a way that the minions are not. There’s a difference between a big picture and a bad movie. The approach comes off like The Sphinx from the Ben Stiller film ‘Mystery Men,’ using word games to sound profound.

  • Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller): Okay, am I the only one who finds these sayings just a little bit formulaic? “If you want to push something down, you have to pull it up. If you want to go left, you have to go right.” It’s…
  • The Sphinx (Wes Studi): Your temper is very quick, my friend. But until you learn to master your rage…
  • Mr. Furious: Your rage will become your master. That’s what you were going to say. Right? Right?
  • The Sphinx (defensively): Not necessarily.

If you work for an executive who’s fond of that game, figure out their riffs and call them on it the same way Mr. Furious did. It’ll be uncomfortable, but you’ll get to real dialog.

If you employ an executive who’s fond of that game…I don’t want to come off as unduly harsh…but their salary might be better invested in office supplies.

If you ARE an executive who’s fond of that game, heed this warning: if you fail to prioritize for your team’s success, your team will fail to prioritize success for you.

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2 Responses to “One Priority Comes Prior to the Other”


  1. […] Working from a realistic sense of time and clear priorities; […]


  2. […] It’s too easy to say “Everything’s a priority” — even though that’s nonsense. Seeing all your stuff laid out in front of you often helps to make priorities clear. (More on this […]


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