The Project Priority Matrix

Every project manager eventually faces a project not going as planned and must take corrective action.  The difficulty lies in deciding what action to take.  Should you reduce scope?  Should you increase budget and resources?  How do you find the right answer?

A priority matrix can help guide the evaluation of options with the project sponsor.  It prioritizes the variables a project must juggle; scope, budget, resources, schedule and quality.  It also documents the details of each input that can be changed to meet project goals.

The Priority Matrix works by giving each project variable a rank, from one to four.  A one is assigned to the element with the least flexibility and a four to the element with the greatest.  Since this is a forced ranking, each rank can be assigned to only one variable and no two elements can have the same rank.  Flexibility is defined as the ability for the variable to change to meet more important project objectives.

During the planning phase of the project, the project manager should work with the project sponsor and other key stakeholders to establish the Priority Matrix.  Completing this activity early has several benefits.  First, it ensures alignment of priorities among key stakeholders and provides a forum for resolving differences.  The second benefit is allowing the project manager and project sponsor to think calmly about corrective actions, without the pressure of the project requiring immediate action.  Lastly, the risk plan can use the Priority Matrix as input.  It provides the team a robust means of actively monitoring risks affecting the priority project variables.

Below is a simple matrix format.  Check the appropriate column (1 through 4) for each variable and include a brief description of the flexibility for each variable (how much can schedule flex?  Can any functionality be eliminated?  Etc.)

Project Priority Matrix

Variable 1 2 3 4 Describe the flexibility within this variable
Schedule (time)
Scope (functionality)
Budget & Resources


ProjectTalks-Chicago: The need for human-centered project management

This morning I attended a first-time in Chicago event put on by ProjectTalks and PMI’s Chicagoland chapter; ProjectTalks-Chicago.  The format was four 20 minute talks. Today’s speakers came from backgrounds in project management, consulting, and change management.  Their topics included consultative servitude, including project team members as stakeholders, change management and project leadership.

What struck me about this morning’s event was the commonality of the messages across these four talks.  All four speakers discussed the human aspects of project management and the need to engage people throughout the project.  This is something that I’ve held as critical for years.  Far too much emphasis in project management is on tools, techniques and templates.  These are all important to achieving project success but placing emphasis there without placing equal, if not more, emphasis on the human aspects of managing projects will ensure failure.

How well do you know your project sponsor and what’s important to him or her?  How well do you understand the end users or customers of the product that your project has set out to create?  How well do you know your project team members and what motivates them? Have you considered the community within which the project and subsequently, the end product, exist?  How about the perspective, in other parts of your organization, that your project is pulling resources from their own?

With all of the effort it takes to define project scope, layout tasks, assign resources, monitor progress and the rest, human aspects may feel like ‘nice to haves’ but treat them as such at your own peril!  Take the time to identify all of your project stakeholders; the sponsors and committees, the team, the customers and end users, the rest of the organization and the community as a whole.  Consider what your project means to them and then develop the proper communications to ensure that they are assets to your project rather than burdens.  You won’t succeed without them.

A Better Understanding of the Critical Role of High School Principals in Chicago

I was able to attend an event on Monday, sponsored by Forefront’s CCAPS and Human Capital subcommittees.  The event, “The Role of Principals in High Schools in Chicago Public Schools” included presentations and panel discussions that were incredibly enlightening for those of us who have not worked in the secondary education space directly.

My takeaways;

  1. The role is complex and demanding but also critical to the success of the school and its students.
  2. The most important work of a high school principal is the creation of a school climate conducive to student learning.  An environment that is safe and encouraging.
  3. Principals in Chicago have greater autonomy and accountability than in other districts in Illinois and the rest of the nation.  While this may add to the complexity, it also improves efficacy.
  4. High school principal turnover is an issue that needs to be addressed since, on average, they last in the position less than 4 and a half years – they’re gone just as their experience level makes them effective school leaders.

Thank you to Forefront and all of the organizers, presenters and panelists.