Eisenhower’s matrix reloaded

Posté le 21 septembre 2014 @ 17:59 par Manfred

Among the various methods of tasks and time management, a famous one, taught to almost all students taking a basic course in management,or engineering is Eisenhower’s matrix, which is based on the classification of both the importance and the urgency of the tasks to undertake (follow the link above if you are not yet familiar with it).

Einsehower’s matrix as traditionally explained – Credit : Nikhil Murali


At first glimpse of the matrix, anybody will understand that tasks that are both urgent and important must be undertaken in priority, and that tasks that are neither ought to be accomplished last or be simply dismissed altogether.

Eisenhower’s matrix is usually presented as a way to prioritize the use of your own time : tasks are to be undertaken by yourself, postponed to later, delegated to a subordinate or simply eliminated.

However, all the lectures or readings I ever met were silent on how one could use Eisenhower’s matrix for an organization, such as a group or a company.

Where I personally find this strategy limited lays in the fact that, if you have plenty of urgent and important tasks – which happens easily when you are managing an organization, important-but-not-urgent tasks get planned but never undertaken .. until they become urgent. Some people argue that, by way of planning, they may be delegated as well, at least until you find the time to have a look at the work of your underlings on that matter.

The logic behind Eisenhower’s matrix can be extended to manage much more than one person’s time : it can be used to prioritize the use of resources of a whole organization (time, money, equipments, etc.).

The trick is that if your concern is to manage an organization, you cannot actually ‘delegate’ : delegating means here calling upon extra resources that you don’t have yourself. Anybody to whom you could delegate a task is a member of your organization and as such counts as one of your resources.

Or if you let phrase theses two questions in a different and combined way : how do I prioritize important but not urgent tasks against urgent but not important ones ?

As often, the answer lays is the question. Important but not urgent tasks, by definition, are more important than urgent but not important ones. That means that if you must drop one of them, it ought to be one “urgent but not important” one ; however, they must not be undertaken immediately, unlike the urgent ones. And if there is a way of planning the use of your resources to accomplish both the urgent but not important and the not urgent but important tasks, why should you not do it ?


So the answer is simply : urgent-but-not-important tasks have priority over important-but-not-urgent tasks, as long as the allocation of resources will not jeopardize the accomplishment of one of them.


This article in pdf.

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