How does Fast Tracking Save Time? Focus on Project Priorities

This third entry in our strategic fast tracking series explores the meaning and purpose of the "project priority", from both a project and fast tracking point of view.  (Also see Parts 1 and 2).

What are "fast tracking priorities"?

  1. Within the fast tracking methodology, "priorities" are a key defining element, used for both project definition and process planning purposes.
  2. When it comes to the project itself, "priorities" are the difference between what is being requested and what is actually necessary (and achievable).
  3. When it comes to the project management process, "priorities" reflect the most important work, and are the basis for streamlining the management work effort.
  4. Priorities are the result of stakeholder negotiation, collaboration and acceptance, and therefore serve to minimize risk and keep expectations realistic.

Working with Priorities to Get Things Done

Priorities are generally understood to be "that which is most important, and most pressing".  By definition, priorities are a sub-set of the "whole".  Effective, informed decision making depends on the ability to analyze "the whole" and identify parts worthy of the "priority" designation.

Priorities as Part of Managing Projects

Projects are made up of demands and capabilities, forming the "project conditions", and providing the basis upon which process is applied.  The specifics of these "demands and capabilities" will vary by project type, value, complexity and urgency.  As can be expected, not every factor and variable is of equal weight and importance, considering individual characteristics, and the project as a whole.

Things get even more complicated when capability constraints are factored into the equation. In fact, it takes a wide variety of plans, activities and decisions to manage any given project. If you have enough staff, time and money to do it all, tradeoffs and adjustments will not be necessary.  But what happens if you are not that lucky?  You could ignore the obstacles and press ahead, hoping something happens to make things work (a very risky proposition), you could postpone or abandon the project (if that’s even possible), or you can find a way to negotiate tradeoffs and adjustments while still maintaining project viability and value.   This is where "priorities" and strategic fast tracking meet.

Priorities as Part of Project Fast Tracking

Priorities play a pivotal role in strategic fast tracking, forming the basis upon which project demands are resized (allowing for problem projects to be delivered even in the face of one or more operational constraints).  Priority setting relies on negotiated "tradeoffs and adjustments" for the "greater good" (i.e. when you can't do it all, you can still do what is possible, necessary and worthwhile).

Strategic fast tracking employs three (3) primary "queries" to translate existing demands into realistic priorities:

  1. How valuable is a given demand to the on time, on budget, as needed completion of the project?
  2. How relevant is a given demand to the overall purpose of the project (considering goals, scope and deliverables)?
  3. Does the nature of a given demand make the project or less achievable?

Priorities and Stakeholder Negotiation

Successful projects rely on stakeholder buy-in and acceptance.  This is particularly important when strategic fast tracking is involved.  Stakeholder consensus is essential to the determination of project priorities, the foundation of the fast tracked project.  First, stakeholders must accept that the project has problems and cannot be completed as requested.  Then, they must collaborate to determine a viable basis for moving forward, working through the constraints, tradeoffs and adjustments. 

This is considered "negotiating" to form the stakeholder "meeting of the minds" (S-MOM in fast tracking terms), and it's another important practice utilized as part of the fast tracking process.

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Quick Facts: The Basics of Strategic Fast Tracking

Strategic fast tracking is a project management methodology.

It provides a modified lifecycle approach, which can be applied on its own or in conjuction with other management methodologies.

It uses a series of streamlined steps and techniques to minimize obstacles and optimize existing capabilities.

It's structured into (5) phases for project selection, definition, governance, oversight and review.

It relies on multiple, strategic tactics to deliver on time results, including scope alignment, stakeholder engagement, "sized" governance, and continuous improvement.

It takes a results-driven approach to "managing", focusing on the "priorities" to save time and minimize project overhead.

Get an illustrated view of the fast tracking process in our informative infographic "Step-by-Step to a Fast Tracked Project".