Doing what matters

There are three fundamental rules for making stuff work:

  1. Focus
  2. Focus
  3. Focus

In organisations, we are subject to so many influences that it is very easy to become scattered. Business reviews, from formal structured assessments to informal discussions, generate multitudes of ideas. They could be issues in need of investigation, things to change or improve, or brand new thoughts. They all vie for our attention. Once spotted we can become positively fearful of losing sight of any of them. (See the recipe for Managing Ideas Soup.)

If we try to do it all, we will achieve a little, but painfully and slowly. If we focus our attention on the few ideas that really matter, we stand a much greater chance of achieving good outcomes with them. We can then move on to the next things that matter, and the next.

But how do we decide what matters most? The received wisdom would have us look at their impact, and rank them in terms of importance to the business. This may seem like a good idea, but my perception of what is important could be completely different from yours, and we will end up arguing about chalk and cheese.

What does the organisation most need? What are its priorities? They may be some or all of the strategic objectives, perhaps combined with elements of culture change, such as encouraging employee involvement or changing attitudes.

If we articulate the organisation’s priorities, we can assess ideas against these as a common base, and agree which ideas will have the greatest impact on them. What’s more, it becomes easy to explain the rationale for what we are doing, which makes it easier to gain people’s support and engage their energy and enthusiasm in achieving a good outcome.

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