The Tyranny of More
Working with a rapidly growing client on setting organizational objectives for the coming year, I was struck by the sheer number of items that made their way onto the list. We decided to prioritize these items, which proved to be a real challenge for the leadership team. Seems every item on the list, according to the team, was too good to leave off the list of the top 5-7 objectives. I reminded the group that everything on this list was in addition to the initiatives they already had on the docket. How did they intend to accomplish all of them?
The next item on the planning agenda was a process called ‘Strategic Renewal.” Good thing!
Developed by the late John O. Whitney, business professor and turnaround consultant, Strategic Renewal is a structured process highly successful organizations go through annually to assess (objectively) their objectives, plans, activities, customers, products and services, and processes. It gives leadership teams an opportunity to take a closer look at what they are doing and how these many items relate to the primary objectives and their stated corporate vision.
Utilizing the “abandonment matrix” a tool which enables a structured discussion about products and services, people, and processes, the team can identify and eliminate things which create “busyness” inside the organization while adding little of no real value to stakeholders.
It is not at all uncommon for ambitious organizations to continue to add to their list of objectives and “to do’s” without taking time to evaluate, in an objective way, the many things that are already on the list which may have fit at one time, but no longer do. Fact is that the pareto principal (often referred to at the 80-20 rule) is not just a popular saying; it happens to be true.
Reflecting on his turnaround consulting experience, Professor Whitney would often say that he could eliminate 50% of all activities in just about any organization with little or no impact on customers. Think about that!
Given the increasing cost of a typical business transaction (including payroll costs), consider what it is you are having your team members do on a typical business day. Are all these steps necessary? Are there areas which could be streamlined? How about your product and service offerings? What about your customers? What percentage of these contribute and which ones detract from your business objectives?
For more information on ways to focus your strategy and planning effectively, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.