Fewer, better, stronger Fail to focus and your organization is doomed, writes Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez
I have come to the view that managers cannot count. When I run workshops with senior leadership teams I ask them to write down their company’s top three initiatives and then list their replies on a ﬂipchart. Every time, the responses include more than three initiatives – often far more than three. When I reveal the list, there is a moment of silence in the room and a certain embarrassment. If the executives of the firm do not know the company’s priorities and are unable to focus on what is key, then they cannot expect this focus from their employees. This lack of focus can also be explained by the pressure on many chief executives to show results quickly. Consequently, they often invest in many initiatives, thinking that they will increase their chances of success. The reality is that human beings tend to be unfocused. A Harvard University study reported that at any given time, 50% of the population is unfocused. Half of a company’s staff are not focused on their work. The study also showed that those people who were focused on their tasks were happier than those who were unfocused. Whatever people were doing, whether it was working or reading or shopping, they tended to be happier if they focused on the activity in hand, instead of thinking about something else.
The dominance of disorder
The fact is that nature tends to disorder, and that being focused requires discipline, order, energy and effort. We humans have mixed feelings about expending energy, even if we know it will bring us pleasure. If top management don’t encourage their staff to focus, or even ‘impose’ focus on key tasks and priorities, the chances are that employees’ minds will wander during their working hours.
Strategic projects require full management attention – carrying out more than three almost guarantees failure
Dialogue Q3 2017