Challenging Times Can Bring a Sharper Focus
With all the challenges and changes we’ve experienced this year, one of the more positive outcomes has been a renewed focus on what matters most.
Recently, I spent two days with a longtime client who owns a complex group of businesses. The economic impact of COVID-19 has been dramatic and has forced difficult choices and painful decisions. We met on schedule to review third quarter results, project for year-end and begin the process of planning and budgeting for 2021. As the business unit leaders reported their results, we made a surprising discovery.
Notwithstanding the relentless pressure of uncertainty, these businesses are doing well, with some preforming at a record pace. What’s going on here?
Beginning with the second quarter of this year, it was clear that major adjustments would have to be made for the businesses to survive. Plans were undertaken with a relentless focus on what (and who) would be essential for us to provide what was needed most to serve our best, most valuable customers. Helped by customer data and internal analysis, a series of robust deliberations, discussion, dialogue, and debate led to the formation of a tighter “temporary” plan for survival. To our surprise, here’s what we learned.
Having to focus on what is absolutely necessary to sustain the business and eliminate the programs, products, processes and yes, the people who do not directly and measurably contribute to those essential few has led to a higher level of organizational success.
The idea of paring down and eliminating distracting, not-productive activities is not a new or unfamiliar concept. I recently asked a colleague (a fan of Peter Drucker’s theory of management effectiveness) to speak to my Integrated Marketing class. He offered these observations:
Economic results require that staff efforts be concentrated on the very few activities that produce significant business results — with as little staff work and staff effort as possible spent on the others. It is far too common in organizations for the bulk of time, work, attention, and money going toward “problems” rather than to opportunities, and toward areas where even extraordinarily successful performance will have minimal impact on results. There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.
Intense pressure can have a dramatic effect on businesses and on people. With a careful, deliberate planning process, even the most challenging times can bring surprisingly strong results and in the process, can galvanize an organization for an even bigger, better future.
For more information on how your organization can plan for success, contact me at email@example.com.
Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., CAE, is the Founder and Principal of Alexander Joseph Associates, a privately held consultancy specializing in executive business advisory services with clients throughout the graphic communications industry.
Joe spent 30 years with NAPL, including 11 years as President and CEO. He is an adjunct professor at NYU teaching graduate courses in Executive Leadership; Financial Management and Analysis; Finance for Marketing Decisions; and Leadership: The C Suite Perspective. He may be reached at Joe@ajstrategy.com. Phone or text: (201) 394-8160.