Focus is a necessary discipline of any organization. In order to achieve goals and objectives efficiently and effectively, the organization must be focused. Without focus the likely result is either stagnation or confusion and chaos. In a recent article we described how business strategy provides focus for the organization. In a similar way, one of the important roles of a leader is to set a shared vision and then to assure that the organization remains focused on achieving it.
There are five conditions that result in a lack of focus:
- No priorities – The organization is simply going through the motions or possibly priorities have not been clearly communicated. Perhaps they are producing products or serving customers, but there is no impetus for growth and change. Therefore, in the minds of the members of the organization, there is nothing on which to focus.
- Ever-changing priorities – Often the case when run by entrepreneurs, some organizations or their leaders constantly change priorities. The organization is left scrambling to act on the priority of the month, the week, the day, or even the hour. When priorities constantly change, the organization becomes frustrated knowing that today’s efforts will be for naught when the next priority is announced.
- Too many priorities – When organizations develop a laundry list of the number one priorities, the organization is overwhelmed. There is no way to focus on a long list of top priorities, and efforts are spread so thin that little can actually be accomplished well.
- Priorities that are not shared – When leadership is too fractured, everyone has their own set or view of priorities. Therefore, the various parts of the organization can be working at cross purposes, certainly not working in a united way toward overall organizational priorities.
- Easily forgotten priorities – When leadership announces a priority, only to never mention it again the organization gets permeated with an attitude of feebleness. Priorities are not taken seriously and therefore there is no need to focus upon them.
To best move forward efficiently and effectively, the organization needs several elements. The first requirement is a leadership team that is competent and cohesive. If the leadership team is not united, the organization will also be fractured and lame. The leadership needs to adopt one to three high priority initiatives driven by their shared vision, specific goals or objectives, and the business strategy.
To develop and maintain focus on these priority initiatives then requires three things: communication, communication, and communication.
The first communication is raising and maintaining awareness throughout the organization of the priorities. In his book, The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni describes the requirement as “overcommunication.” Too often leaders, because a priority is at the top of their mind, might think that communicating once to constituents is adequate. In fact, continual communication is required in order to keep the priority at the top of everyone’s mind. If an initiative is truly important to the organization, every opportunity to energize and involve the entire organization must be utilized.
The second part of communication required to maintain focus is the coordination of efforts. A communication methodology must be developed to keep all of the participating elements informed of activities to enable collaboration and appropriate availability of resources.
The third part of communication required to maintain focus is tracking of progress or results. If an initiative is a high priority, then the results impact the future of the organization and the well-being of all of the people in the organization. Everyone needs to know the results and see that the organization has made a serious effort to achieve.
One of greatest factors that limit the potential of organizations is the lack of focus on the few areas of priority that can truly impact the future. Without focus, the energy of the organization is diffused rather than applied to high-leverage initiatives. Driving and maintaining focus is a necessary role of leadership.
How effective is your organization in focusing on the high-impact priorities?