In college, I had an economics professor that told an old joke on the first day of class. He said if you lined up every economist head to toe across the earth, you would never reach a conclusion. This reminds me of the flood of business books produced in the last 10 years.
If you want to lose your focus, get confused and remain distracted–read and follow every hot new business book on the bestseller list. Now it’s not because these books aren’t great - some of them are. It’s because we have incomplete context and inadequate follow through when trying to integrate best practices in our organizations.
A great example comes from two of my favorite business books. The E-Myth Revisited and Good to great. If you’ve read Good to Great, you remember the powerful advice of getting the right people on the bus and putting them in the right seats. In other words, it doesn't matter how great of an idea operation you have unless you've got quality people leading and performing the work.
However, the E-Myth tells us that we can’t count on having exceptional people. No business can have all A players. Its too expensive and a business dependent upon exceptional people isn’t scalable. The E-Myth tells us that we must have great systems to enable ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results.
So which is it? Great people or great systems? If you answered both–buzz–thanks for playing. Most high-performing organizations are lucky to have either consistently exceptional talent or highly effective systems that leverage human capital.
Many leaders have neither, but often think they do. Now I’m not suggesting that we neglect either system or talent development. That I am suggesting is that we focus -and assess the nature and goals of our organization.
For instance, if the nature of our company is producing a uniform product at a high volume - and our goal is to become the biggest in the marketplace, we may be more appropriately suited for a system-centric model. If on the other hand, we are a boutique professional services firm with a focus on customer intimacy, and controlled growth goals, having the best possible talent might be the preferred strategy.
An idea is only as good as its implementation. Read all you can. Never stop learning. But then take a timeout, and think deeply about your organization. Ask what is right for you. What makes sense. Maybe you don’t know the answer to that question - which means an organizational assessment and some tough questions may be helpful.
But once you have a sense of what makes sense for you and your company, take one great idea at a time and focus. Make sure it’s right, implement ruthlessly and follow through in that pursuit - before you become distracted by the shiny new strategy of the week.