I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with a mentor I haven’t seen in a while. He also happens to be a key opinion leader and one of the brightest minds in our industry. As usual I was awestruck. This time it was by his clarity of focus. He has managed to build systems and teams around himself which allow him to focus on mid- and long-term strategy, to avoid the everyday noise & interference, and ultimately to execute at the highest level those vital few strategies he has chosen.
It is easy to get caught up in the daily noise. It can be tempting to want and to try to implement a myriad of strategies and tactics. However, as the mentor I mentioned has proven, focus wins the day. Focus on a few vital strategies and execute them at the highest level. Concentrating on the vital fews will not only help to filter out the noise, but also to accelerate and elevate successes.
Here are a few simple considerations to examine when evaluating whether or not to implement a new strategy:
- What problem are you trying to solve? Albert Einstein was reported to have said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” Ensure a new strategy or change to strategy will actually solve a problem or make a difference. Focus first on making sure there is a problem and understanding it as completely as possible.
- Protect your core. Figure out what is working, what you’re doing well, and keep at it. If you opt to introduce something new, be mindful that you protect what has gotten you this far. As new strategies gain traction, the core will likely shift. Continue to protect it.
- Give it time. If you really believe in a strategy, don’t give it up prematurely only to shift attention to something else. Over time this will only yield many half-executed strategies which combine to form more noise and sap resources.
- Ensure you have the resources to execute at the highest level. This refers not just to monetary resources, but also to human capital. Do your sales, marketing, and customer service teams have the bandwidth to execute the new strategy while at the same time continuing to execute core strategy and tactics?
- Give something up. Not the core, of course. To introduce a new strategy means something will have to give…hence the fews in vital fews. Unless you are wasting resources, a focus on the vital fews inherently requires you will have to make some sacrifices.
- Measure. Sure, it sounds simple and management teams love to talk about metrics. Make sure your new strategy can be measured against clear, concrete objectives. How and how often will you measure the results of the new strategy?
- Augment. The metrics will guide you. As you gain traction with the new strategy, make subtle shifts to get more out of it.
- Repeat. New challenges will arise as your selected, vital few strategies overcome old ones. Focus on understanding these new problems, examine what is your current core strategy to protect, and allot the proper amount of time and resources for any new strategies to address the new obstacles.
Implementing a vital fews vision is cyclical. It begins with intense focus, directed primarily inward. Know your problems. Know what is working. Be judicious with making changes and implementing new strategies. Commit the proper time and resources with the understanding that short-term sacrifice will likely be needed to reach the mid- to long-term goals. Measure and change as necessary based on the results. Keep your focus narrow and intense as the landscape of challenges changes in reaction to your successes.
A vital fews philosophy can be summed up quite succinctly. Eliminate the noise. Focus. Grow.