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Blog and News

Focus or Failure
06/22/2013 Doug Beckley

"A great company is much more likely to die of indigestion from too much opportunity than starvation from too little." - Jim Collins

In my business, I work intimately with other businesses. I work with them to grow, to increase margins, to solve their biggest problems and to seize on their greatest opportunities. My client companies are filled with smart, honorable and hardworking people committed to making their business successful. And sometimes, these fine people make me nuts.

One of the increasingly prevalent phenomena in business today is what I call management attention deficit disorder or MADD. MADD looks something like this. In a management meeting you are sitting around a table debating about a problem. Someone comes up with an idea. A good idea! The group gets excited and starts chattering about how to implement this revolutionary new idea. Feeling good, the meeting adjourns.

So what's wrong with that? This great idea has been suggested before - at other meetings and to solve other problems. So happy was management that we thought of a solution that we forgot to execute on the solution. And thus, in a circular fashion, we revisit the same problems, discuss the same solutions, and never implement. As a result, management time is wasted and our business performance lags.

How do we solve MADD? I recommend the following:

  1. Make sure a good idea is a good idea. When we become excited about a new solution or business opportunity, think it through. Make sure it is consistent with your core strategy, challenge it, debate it, dissect it and make sure it is managerially feasible. If it survives this scrutiny, then it may be appropriate to move on to step 2.
  2. Determine What, How, Who and When. Develop your idea into an executable plan by determining what specific results are expected, how these results will be accomplished, the action steps required, who will be responsible for implementation and by when they are required to act.
  3. Keep Score: Once you have the plan, you must insure that you track progress against both the outcomes you defined and the activities required to get you there. This is where accountability must occur for those responsible. If those responsible have been unable to execute, then you either need to coach them, assign someone else to be in charge or revisit the possibility that this idea isn't worth our time.
  4. to act.
  5. Create a Stop Doing List. Successful leaders are disciplined. They decide what they need to do and do it. As importantly, they decide what not to do and stop doing it. To be successful we must be focused. We must determine our core strategy and then execute relentlessly on a few essential initiatives rather than half starting and fumbling in a pile of uncompleted projects and tasks.

Effective leaders cannot be like cats. They cannot pounce on every new shiny object that rolls across their path. They must be proactive and thoughtful with uncompromising focus. They must evolve from problem solving to problem prevention. They must do this even at the expense of the immediate gratification which comes from constantly rescuing things and people around them.

A wise man once said that the difference between winners and losers is that winners discipline themselves to do the things losers refuse to do. Sometimes these things may seem tedious - like planning your work and working your plan.