Conflicting Goals and Projects

It’s Thursday morning and the COO just sent you an email requesting a detailed analysis of all customers’ accounts.  A project that will take a couple of days and of course she needs it by Friday afternoon.  To make it worse, you have a major employee presentation on the new company products tomorrow morning and you still have to prepare the slideshow and talking points.

While this scenario might not happen often, it demonstrates a conflict of goals where you almost have to choose one over the other.  The COO has a reason for needing the detailed analysis by Friday afternoon even if you don’t know why and you also need to inform the employees on the new product lines in the morning.  How do we manage the conflict?

First things first, determine the urgency of each goal.  Check in with the COO regarding the deadline and possibly the scope of the analysis she needs.  Often the requestor doesn’t realize you have a conflict and can change the deadline which gives you some breathing room.  Additionally, you can also verify the scope of the project to ensure there isn’t any miss-understandings.  The latter might help you cut down on the actual project time if it isn’t as time consuming as you thought.  Additionally, you can review the prior goal (in the scenario demonstrate a new product line) and see if you can delegate most of the preparation work to someone else or if that deadline can be moved.

If you have appropriate staff or coworkers for delegation, now is the time start reviewing who can do with.  Additionally, you should know your resources that can help accomplish both goals.  In the scenario, you might be able to task a lot of the analysis onto another employee with you finalizing the report after the employee presentation.  Or vice-versa you can delegate the task of preparing the other project to an employee with you finalizing the project near the end.

Goals that you have a long ramp time to accomplish, you can start planning your steps to each goal ensuring that they logistics don’t compete with each other.  Unless in the event the accomplishment of one goal decimates the other goal. In the latter event, you need to evaluate the importance of each goal and determine which one is the most important.  With the scenario above you may have to determine which project is more important or ask the COO for her input on which one should be accomplished.

Competing goals can often discourage a good employee and manager, however with careful planning and forward thinking you can start planning accordingly.