Thursday, 13 October 2011

It's nice to be nice

A while ago I was in the office of a client, a learning and development manager, and he had a sign prominently displayed: “do the necessary – ignore the nice”. It was his rule of thumb for prioritising learning interventions.

I felt uncomfortable with that formula, but it’s taken me some time to work out why. I tried reversing the formula, and clearly it makes no sense to ignore the necessary, but I’m equally convinced you can’t just ignore the “nice”.

I suppose it depends why you feel it’s nice. If it’s nice because it’s the kind of work you want to do for personal/career reasons, but it doesn’t fit your organisation’s agenda, then that’s clearly not a corporate priority, and may justifiably be ignored. But it may be nice for all sorts of other reasons, not least because it’s important but never urgent, or because it yields qualitative benefits but doesn’t lend itself to quantitative measurement. In either of these scenarios, you ignore the nice at your peril.

I think we need better formulae for determining priorities. In many cases, a simple but effective guide could be the use of an urgency/importance grid (just a 2x2 matrix). And a well thought through Balanced Scorecard can help bring to the top of the agenda issues other than the most pressing operational priorities.

What do others think?

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