Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


Choices and forcing functions

I'm going through a strategic planning process right now.  It's very liberating - you can start to redraw the boundaries, constraints, and reassess the pre-existing conditions of your business.


One of the challenges is not trying to commit to doing too many things.  A long time ago, I realized something that seems counterintuitive, at first glance:

Sometimes you have to limit your choices to expand your opportunities.

What I mean is you need to force yourself to focus on fewer things so each one of your focus areas receives sufficient investment to allow it to succeed and thrive.  One of the mistakes I see companies make (lots of them, not just mine) is to spread themselves too thin.

We often think of a "shotgun" approach as hedging our bets.  In a way, that's true, but dividing your organization's attention across too many different initiatives more often results in frustration and failure.

So, what can you do?

Some techniques can help:

  • Drive to your top 5. You have lots of options, and you probably have a group of people you need to get on board with your priorities and commitments.  Getting a group to agree on a short list is challenging, so your first step should be to try to get to reasonable alignment with five target areas.
  • Get clear on your top 3. This will take a while, but if you can get the group to agree on the top 3 areas of focus, that is real progress.
  • Drop the bottom 2. Now that you know your top 3, it's time to say "no" to everything below those.  It will be a test of your mettle, but it's important.
  • Pick your #1. You've got a list of 3 important things - now, pick the one that is the most important.  It will be your cornerstone.
  • Align your resources to your #1. Allocate at least 67% of your resources, time, etc. to your #1 priority (that's a minimum - allocating more to #1 is even better).  The remaining 1/3 of your resources can be budgeted to the remaining 2 items (the mix there is less important, as long as you don't ever allow your commitment to #1 to drop below 67%.
    • I realize you may not be able to make the shift all at once, but give yourself an aggressive deadline, then plan and execute to have the resource shift in place by the deadline.
  • Hold the line. The old saying, "No pain, no gain," holds true here - it will be a difficult transition but well worth it in terms of focus and execution.

This transition can be a very liberating one, if you do it deliberately.  There is huge value in setting clear guidelines to drive decisions of what's in, and what's out - especially when it comes to how everyone in the organization spends their precious time and the company's precious money.

Anything to add or challenge from your experiences? I'd love to hear it.