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  • Writer's pictureChris Ward

Implementing strategy? Take the time to focus.

In recent posts we have looked at a number of barriers to successfully implementing a business strategy, as suggested by respondents to a recent survey of our LinkedIn connections: simplicity, engagement, accountability, leadership, and communication.

In this post we will take a look at another barrier that topped the list for several respondents: focus.

Remember when…

…you worked on only one task at a time? When you could actually give your undivided attention to doing one thing, and doing it well, before moving on to, or even considering, the next!

Of course, that was before such “time savers” as fax machines, mobile phones, personal computers, email, text messaging, and a myriad of other tools that are supposed to make us more productive. All of make this a foreign concept to most millennials and many Gen Xers.

The challenge of multi-tasking

The fact is, multi-tasking has become a way of life. And it can be very challenging. All too often we’re working on two, three or five tasks at the same time. That means we are continually making decisions about how to allocate our time and what tasks to put on the back burner.

According to our survey, a failure to allocate the appropriate effort to tasks related to implementing a strategic initiative is the reason many strategies fail. As one put it: “Invariably, strategy involves change – change that affects some or all employees, leaders, partners, vendors and clients. A lack of focus on how to successfully manage change and how to work with human beings on dealing with change is one of the biggest barriers I see in successful adoption / implementation of a business strategy.” Couple this with inadequate information about the reason for the strategy and why a specific task matters and employee reactions like the following can become commonplace: "I'm too busy. I've got enough on my plate to worry about pie-in-the-sky strategy. Just let me get my work done.”

Striking a balance is key

One sales leader noted that day-to-day tasks often get in the way of successfully implementing a business strategy. “… the biggest challenge our sales team faces is too much time spent in the business and not enough time spent on the business. Meaning, strategy and consulting sessions are valued when they occur, but within a short period afterwards, dealing with emails, voicemails and sales targets takes precedence.”

Of course, it’s not possible to abandon most day-to-day tasks; far from it as that could severely jeopardize the organization’s present performance and future prospects. What’s needed is a way of dealing with conflicts when they arise. That means striking a balance between routine and strategic tasks and going out of your way to accommodate employees who have taken on the additional work involved in implementing a strategy.

One comment underscored the issue in a way that many can understand and have likely experienced: “The biggest barrier is how easy it is to get consumed by servicing existing customers and managing a growing business. It's not always easy to find the time to devote to implementing a new strategy. A classic easier said than done situation.”

Small is beautiful

While there is no one, or simple, solution to a lack of focus, a number of respondents pointed out how much easier it can be to deal with smaller tasks as opposed to an entire initiative or project. This is as true for managers as it is for others in the organization. As one put it, “The conclusion I have come to is that managerial attention span can be an issue. The solution might be to break the long-term strategy down into bite size, short term pieces.”

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