Recently a friend described his frustration with the leader of his organization, who was asked in a monthly all-employee meeting which of the ten priorities being described were most important. The leader responded; “they are all equally important.” A classic case of no focus; and no guts!
Last year, Booz & Company released a piece of research done with 1,800 upper-level executives. One question they were asked was: how many priorities are on your list of key priorities, if such a list exists? Only 13% said 1 to 3. 38% indicted a number higher than 3, and 49% said the list doesn’t exist!
Employees hunger to know where the organization is trying to go. In general, they want to help. It requires the leader to make choices and to publically lead the charge. Here are the key steps every leader needs to follow all the time, over and over.
- Determine the One of Two Key Priorities for the Organization to Significantly Improve– To do this, a leader needs to dig into the details and determine the problems and the opportunities. This should be done with a carefully selected group of knowledgeable, objective, high-energy, creative individuals. The resulting learning should get whittled down to only one or two high priorities. All of this should take a few weeks, not months.
- Communicate to the Troops– The leader needs to describe these key priorities to the organization, why they are being selected, and the specific individuals being give full responsibility to make these priorities happen. Making those decisions requires guts. Some people will be disappointed, some threatened, but most will be very excited.
- Review and Revise until Success is Achieved– The leader must make sure progress is thoroughly reviewed regularly, and most importantly, be open-minded to modify the plans on the fly as new information emerges. These reviews should take place until the key priorities are achieved.
Once completed, it is time to return to Step One!