Clarity, Priorities, Action
Shall we start with a parable?
A married couple is out on a Sunday drive.
After dozing off, the wife inquires, “How are we doing?”
Her husband responds, “Do you want the good news or the bad news?”
“Let’s start with the good news.”
“We are making great time!” he offers.
“And the bad news?” she asks.
“I have no idea where I am going.”
In business there is too much focus on “making great time” outside of the critical context of overall outcome being sought.
This holds true at both the individual and team levels, and is why frequently failure is not due to a lack of effort, but to a lack of focus-driven, cohesive effort.
Whenever I engage in a strategy and business model tuning session. I begin with an assessment of how well understood and executed is my client’s current strategy. I meet separately with the members of the executive team to pose the same simple set of questions. I then bring the team together for what is always an entertaining yet alarming de-briefing session. And then we get to work on solving the problem.
No matter how talented you or your individual team members may be, failure is likely in the absence of a clear, concise, and uniformly held understanding of the outcome that you seek, of why it matters, and of what it will take to achieve it.
Think of talented musicians in a band each playing a different tune, or talented athletes on a team all running different plays. In each case, you expect noise and chaos, not success and achievement.
As a leader, your charter is to harness the power of focus. Only through your clarity on the outcome that you seek are you able to properly identify and then assign priorities. And only through this focus-driven set of priorities are you able to effectively deploy the resources available to you.
Your strategic vision must be clearly defined, articulated, and understood by your team. In addition to encouraging focus-driven collective effort, this allows all involved to derive meaning from their work. The problem that your product or service solves for your customers needs to be understood by and matter to your team. You cannot inspire greatness in the absence of a collective understanding of why the work matters.
In summary, activity without both focus and purpose will not lead to achievement. Clarity, priorities, and action, in this order, are your key.
If you invest the time and effort into ensuring that you and your team understand and rally around the outcome that you seek, you will ensure that you are not focusing on efficiency at the expense of achievement. You will avoid making great time going in the wrong direction.
Sound like common sense? It is, so let’s now make it common in practice.