Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Vital Few - Focus is Everything

Given all of the rapid changes and increasing distractions organizations face today, individuals must be able to focus on those things that offer the greatest advantage to the organization. The clearer the priorities, the easier it will be for people to focus their energies on what really counts.

If I had to take one lesson from my business experience it is without focus you are lost.  Infinity is not available to us in this life.  Time and money are limited and as such we must utilize these limited resources effectively.  I can see no way to achieve our objectives other than to utilize discretion, prioritization and selection.  For after all, some things are simply more critical and more important. 

The most effective leaders are those who can cut through the clutter to focus on what is most important. When individuals and teams are confronted by multiple issues, they often try to take them all on… at once. Because they are overwhelmed, they make progress on none of them. The result: inertia and a lack of change.

The job of management is to steer the focus of their organization towards those few vital priorities that will keep or bring the organization into alignment with the demands of its customers. Once these are identified, employees can then pinpoint the group, division, factory, department, or project gaps that must be closed to stay aligned with the strategic direction of your organization.

From your long list, identify the top three to four and focus all your energy on those. When one is complete, pull another up to the top, but hold no more than four at a time. You will find that you get more done (and at a higher quality) by working on only four priorities at a time than you did when you tried to juggle ten or twelve.

Focus is also about learning to say no. Identify the things to stop doing in order to focus on the vital few. These 'must stops' require leaders to let go of their favorite projects, stop wasting valuable resources, and focus their own time only on the chosen goals.

You can’t do everything. So you have to focus. Since you can’t do everything and if you ever could, your customers wouldn’t believe you anyhow, then you need to focus on something that you do well, that people want.

You get results based on the things you focus on most intently. Regardless of how many things you want to accomplish, you must focus on the most important and let other things — which in the right context may be very good things — go by the wayside.

Pareto's Principle, the 80/20 Rule, should serve as a daily reminder to focus 80 percent of your time and energy on the 20 percent of you work that is really important. Don't just "work smart", work smart on the right things.

If everything is important, then nothing is important. Do fewer but better things. Because the person who tries to achieve everything ultimately accomplishes nothing. Focus. Focus. Focus.

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