When setting priorities people are usually overoptimistic about what they can realistically accomplish. We see individuals trying to do everything at once: lose weight, exercise, eat healthier, be a better spouse, dedicate more time to the children, fix the house, reinvigorate their careers, build a better network. The reality is that you can’t do everything at once. If everything is a priority; then, nothing is a priority.
Companies don’t fare better than individuals. The illusion is that 100 employees should be able to handle 100 priorities. But companies have to understand that the average employee probably can’t handle more than 3 priorities at a time.
The impact on a business is that employees can’t find optimal solutions to problems that satisfy all priorities: should they be focusing on client experience or on cost management? Product innovation or bug eradication? This in turn can create paralysis in an organization while the decisions makers figure out which one is the most important priority.
Another side effect is that the company makes it impossible to do something that would please everybody. If they execute something thinking of customer experience, then somebody complains about cost management. Thus the actions of employees are based not on the priority but on who they do not want to anger.
The way around this problem is simple: first figure out what the top priorities are, then execute on them. Everything else doesn’t get a pass.