Organizational Priorities

Organizational Priorities are the third component of Core Culture of an organization. They are located one layer outside of Purpose and Philosophy. (See the image below.)

Core Culture
source: Sheila Margolis

Priorities are an added layer of core values to guide the organization as the Purpose and the Philosophy may not address all of the current requirements to be a thriving organization. Priorities are additional values the organization must focus on and pay attention to now. Priorities are not typically as stable as the Purpose or the Philosophy. Priorities can change as the environment — within or outside the organization – changes. Priorities allow the organization to have an adaptive, resilient culture. It is the Priorities that keep an organization agile and alert. To sum up, Priorities provide the momentum to change behaviors that will enable the organization to thrive – while sustaining its distinction – its identity (the Purpose and Philosophy).[1]

Managing Organizational Priorities[2]
The pressure to perform, along with the competing demands from customers, creates a stressful and confused environment. Managers are pulled in multiple directions, fitting in projects for their favorite customers, ignoring other projects, and working long hours. Nothing seems to get done properly and staff is on the verge of burnout. However, there are ways to manage multiple priorities effectively. Here are four of the most effective actions you can take to manage your organization's priorities.

  • Clarify the organization's value proposition. The organization's value proposition is its reason for existence. It describes how the organization adds value to the larger company. Is the organization expected to drive cost savings, improve customer satisfaction, create new revenue streams, or increase revenue in existing streams? Perhaps all of the above? If so, then what are the priorities within those expectations? Does customer satisfaction trump revenue? Or are cost savings what's really important these days?
    • The value proposition serves as your anchor amidst the tumult of organizational life. Once you have clarity with your executive team on the true value of your organization to the enterprise, you can identify whether a proposed initiative or project fits. Some will clearly match. These are the high value projects that go on top of the priority list.
    • Other projects won't align with the value proposition. Deciding how to handle these projects can be tough, especially if their sponsors are particularly committed to them. However, if leaders have done their ground work and gained consensus with the executive time on the value proposition, telling a customer "next quarter," "next year," or, even "no" becomes much easier.
    • This is exactly what happened with BetaCorp's Marketing VP. He confirmed with the executive team that the value ofmarketing was to build corporate image and awareness within key channels. With the team's agreement and support, he renegotiated priorities with internal customers, dropping the non-value added projects clogging his portfolio.
  • Create logical, fact-based, prioritization processes for investments. Unless you're lucky enough to be in an organization with unlimited resources, there will always be tension between who gets what they want and who doesn't. The best organizations prevent destructive politicking by creating logical, fact-based prioritization processes for investments.
    • These processes, based on the value proposition, strategies, and goals of the organization, are transparent. Anyone in the organization can see exactly how decisions are made and how funds are allocated. Projects can be evaluated for potential return on investment, cost to implement, match with resource capabilities, or other pre-set criteria. A weighting system allows criteria to receive varying degrees of importance depending on organizational goals.
  • Develop structures that identify and resolve resource allocation conflicts. Internal organizations inevitably butt heads despite clear prioritization processes. These conflicts are not necessarily negative; often they direct attention to important issues. However, when the conflicts stay under the surface or aren't managed well, they can create nagging and disruptive problems.
    • One team, for example, was pulled between requests from two different departments. Instead of resolving the issue, the team worked for both departments, sacrificing quality in favor of responsiveness. The problem wasn't discovered until a department review session surfaced serious issues in the projects for both departments. Beneath these issues were deeper organizational concerns: managers and individual contributors reluctant to negotiate with their clients, customers who had learned that they could get what they wanted by going directly to the provider and skirting the formal prioritization system, and tendency to solve problems by working harder, not smarter.
    • In this case, there was a structure for identifying priority conflicts: the department review session. However, waiting for the next meeting may be impossible given the pain felt by over allocated employees feel. Ideally, employees should be able to talk with their managers. But are their managers accessible? Do employees even know who their manager is? Believe it or not, in some companies, people don't know.
    • Internal structures, such as resource reviews, continuous process improvement efforts, weekly tactical meetings, and daily huddles, identify and resolve resource allocation conflicts before they interfere with product quality and service delivery. They also shape a culture in which people can freely raise issues and proactively solve problems.
  • Create structures to encourage employee collaboration. Organizations rely on colleagues across department lines in order to get things done. Yet, relationships between organizations are often strained, with both parties complaining about lack of understanding and responsiveness. In their dedicated efforts to service customers, teams are often too busy or too distracted to share lessons learned with colleagues.
    • Creating simple structures that encourage employee collaboration can make the difference. Collaboration and knowledge sharing opportunities prevent teams from reinventing work already begun by others. Five proven techniques for building effective collaboration are listed below.

Employee Collaboration

See Also

Flat Organizational Structure
Holacratic Organizational Structure
Hierarchical Organization
Organization Breakdown Structure (OBS)
Organization Chart
Organization Design
Organizational Absorption
Organizational Agility
Organizational Alignment
Organizational Architecture
Organizational Behavior
Organizational Capability
Organizational Change
Organizational Change Management (OCM)
Organizational Commitment
Organizational Commitment Questionnaire (OCQ)
Organizational Configurations
Organizational Culture
Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI)
Organizational DNA
Organizational Development
Organizational Effectiveness
Organizational Efficiency
Organizational Evaluation
Organizational Goals
Organizational Health Index (OHI)
Organizational Inertia
Organizational Infrastructure
Organizational Integrity
Organizational Learning
Organizational Maturity
Organizational Memory
Organizational Performance
Organizational Project Management
Organizational Readiness
Organizational Resilience
Organizational Theory


  1. Definition - What Does Organizational Priorities Mean? Sheila Margolis
  2. Managing Your Organizational Priorities Corped Group