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A space launch vehicle requires thousands of design trade-offs, pitting safety against capability.

Just for fun: Dilbert Cartoon about priorities

"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."
- John F. Kennedy, Rice University Moon Speech

The Hardest Thing to do in Business

There are many hard things to do in business. It takes wisdom to know what they are. It takes courage to do them. The survival of a business depends on doing them.

Choosing priorities is the most difficult thing in business, specifically, choosing non-priorities. Non-priorities are the things you wish you could do, but cannot because you have better opportunities.

A common mistake leadership makes is to jump from crisis to crisis and tell their staff what the top priorities are, without looking at where the resources are going to come from and what that means won't get done on time, or at all. Often, senior managers are too busy to understand the side-effects of fixing the "big problem of the day". Not understanding those impacts is very dangerous.

What these managers are doing is simply identifying things which are important. Almost anyone can do this. That's not good management. What is needed is choosing between things to do. This is the hard work.

Everyone knows that resources are limited, but so often, direct reports will accept the direction from senior management to make something top priority, without voicing concern over the impact to other important work. This may be due to the assumption that management understands these impacts and accepts the risk.

This is aggravated by managers thinking they understand the impact when they really do not. It may be worsened when staff cannot, on the spur of the moment, articulate all of the other work load and what will be impacted. It is very hard to quickly summarize the work in terms that can be understood by a senior manager who is not really familiar with the work. Often when trying to explain, it sounds like less than it is, or worse, like an exaggeration.

Leadership must understand this axiom:

"Every choice to do one thing is a choice to not do another thing".

Before you can choose non-priorities well, you need to
understand the first three habits of Stephen Covey's seven habits.

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