Why do some companies regularly fail to accomplish their most important priorities? Often the answer is that they’ve failed to sharpen the focus. There are simply too many goals, too many initiatives, and too many things that battle for attention. When this occurs, “goal fatigue” sets in and people tend to revert to doing what they’ve always done – and the new initiatives takes a back seat.
To combat this, effective leaders and managers regularly sharpen the organization’s focus by using the following strategies:
Sharpen your Vision
- Priorities are driven by a clear vision of success for a given time period. The senior leadership team should work together, discuss alternative visions, and get clear on what success will look like. Will we have expanded market share by 15% in the next two years? Will we have brought a new product to market? Will we have raised the profile of the organization for a key audience?
- As you hone your goals, keep asking whether the vision is still too broad or too fuzzy. In most cases, 3-5 major initiatives are about all that an organization can handle at one time. If you’ve got more than that, consider whether you’ve sharpened the focus enough.
- Keep adjusting your goals to make sure they’re communicable, achievable and measurable.
Communicate the Focus
- Get all employees on the same page by communicating the vision and related goals to the entire company.
- Convey that the senior leadership team is committed to achieving the goals and that all employees will need to be a part of the effort.
- Explain that the benefits are significant and that everyone shares the risk of failure.
- Make sure there’s sufficient investment in planning so that every division of the company can discuss its role. In cases where the goals require cross-division collaboration, make sure that the leaders of those divisions are held accountable for developing a joint plan.
- As the plans are developed, make sure to let all the affected employees know what’s in the plan – and how they’ll be expected to contribute.
Develop a Scorecard
- There are three ways to measure performance at the executive level: 1) you can measure results (e.g. share price, customer satisfaction, market share), 2) you can measure outputs (e.g. productivity, worker satisfaction), and 3) you can measure the completion of major initiatives (e.g. rolling out a new product). While each scorecard will be different, all scorecards should be written down and broadly shared, with a system in place to keep the scorecard updated.
- A scorecard gives senior leaders a way to be crisp about what success looks like – plus a way to measure their progress. But a scorecard is worthless unless the senior leadership regularly gets together to talk about the results – and determine what’s on course and what’s not.
- Senior leaders should share the results with all affected managers and staff. If you want a highly engaged and motivated workforce, you’ve got to commit to high levels of honest communication and information sharing.