The Paradox of Prioritization

“People can only agree on the value of something when their values align” – Dhaval Panchal

As leaders, you have a confidence level in your judgment of situations. And your gut-level understanding judges the balance of certainty vs. uncertainty. There is asymmetry. You know that real problems often are messy.

In the early months of the Global pandemic, uncertainty dialed up. Many organizations focused and prioritized with clarity. In times of the highest uncertainty, the next priority is clear. For example, retailers implemented no-contact deliveries under extremely tight windows of opportunity. It got messy, but it got done.

What will your customers say when they get to see your priorities? Will they find a large number of in-flight projects, or will they see a laser-focused organization aimed to meet their needs in a certain way?

“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going because you might not get there.” – Yogi Berra

When you don’t know where you are going, you end up somewhere. Is that where you wanted to be? Some people know beforehand, while others learn when they get there. The apriori people are always confident, while the others remain unsure. The tension between what ought to be and let’s wait & see can only be resolved at the level of shared values. People can only agree on the value of something when their values align.

Uncertain times test the values of your leaders. Actual preferences are brought to sharp focus as the fake flakes off. Action becomes imperative when survival is at stake. You decide and then act with urgency.

When inherent uncertainty can no longer be ignored, prioritization becomes crystal clear. Because embracing uncertainty is a humbling experience.

As we ease out of the pandemic and fit into the new normal, I hope you will sustain your curiosity and embrace as much uncertainty as you can. A leader’s learning journey is continuous in an inherently uncertain world. 


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