“Priority” is the only single word that is an oxymoron by itself

Michael Brown, M.D.

As a Chief Information Officer, I was often approached by people and asked that I make something he or she wanted an organizational priority. However, these people rarely compared what they wanted against other potential initiatives. A specific option can’t be considered a priority unless it is compared to other options.

When approached in this way, I liked to thank the person for helping me appreciate what was clearly an important topic. I also let them know that the insights that they provided will clearly help me prepare for an upcoming meeting where this initiative will be compared with other potential priorities. Finally, I offered to help them better understand what I believe will be the criteria by which priorities are chosen.

My response did not give people exactly what they wanted, but it appeared to have left them satisfied and happy with me.

Michael Brown, MD, MS, MCHM, CHCIO is a certified executive coach (Center For Executive Coaching) and Chief Medical Officer at Acesis, Inc. He was an instructor at the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health for 8 years after graduating from their Masters in Healthcare Management program in 2007. For the 12 years prior to joining Acesis in 2014, Michael was the Chief Information Officer for Harvard University Health Services.