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Lack of Focus Kills Performance
December 11,2012 [ by Larry Chao ] 123005 Read and 1 Comment

As organizations grow bigger and more complex, they often sow the seed of their own discontent: Lack of focus.

This is because executives spread themselves too thin. Their agenda is too broad and they try to do too much. Instead of accomplishing one or two things at 100%, they manage to complete seven things at 50%.

Reduce this completion rate to about 10% when you combine the partial efforts of multiple executives on cross-functional projects, and now you know why so many goals are missed. Even worse, no one is accountable and the problem perpetuates itself.

It is time to stop doing so many different things and start focusing on the few things that really matter. It is no wonder we often feel like a gerbil spinning out of control on an exercise wheel.

A Trap Anyone Can Fall Into

I remember in my previous work experience with a multi-national, the technical director was involved in several regional projects which forced him to travel at least two days a week for several months.

During that time, the output and productivity in his factory suffered. There were problems related to scheduling, manufacturing and quality control. These problems were not being solved, as the technical director did not have time to focus and follow-up.

Finally, the CEO had had enough. One day when the technical director was out of town, he went over to the factory, made all the decisions, and solved the problems once and for all. “Charity begins at home,” he proclaimed.

Rein in Those Wild Horses

Too often in the spirit of getting a lot done, we lose sight of our priorities. Instead of challenging our agenda, we do as we are told. As a result, essential work suffers, particularly work involving cross-functional teams. Our disparate efforts are like wild horses pulling a carriage in different directions and getting nowhere.

We need to step back periodically and ask ourselves if what we are doing is really helping us achieve our goals. If we are brutally honest, we can probably cut out half of what we do, and refocus that time properly. And now is the best time to do this. Now is when you will probably have the most impact and fewest regrets.

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