My new word is FOCUS! Yes, it is common and not especially exciting, but FOCUS says it all for me. Focus = Prosperity! Look at any great leader.. or great company and you will find they are focused! Their focus is narrow and their actions are strategic. All the great stories of success have at some point in the journey a desire to focus on doing a small number of things well. From an organization point of view, this is difficult and there are two common struggles I see often:
- Some organizations demonstrate great commitment to focus on strategic opportunities. They do environmental scans, talk to experts, engage their work force, but ultimately they lack the courage to make a choice between competing products, programs and services. They often end up looking much like they always did before their discussions and have no focus for growing their future. This happens most often when one is scared to be authentic about the challenges an organization faces or seeks to protect their own vested interest. It is an interesting dynamic, but one that can be broken with external facilitation help.
- The second challenge to being a focused is common. It is where you simply live in a tactical world and never have strategic discussions. Avoidance of the greatest kind. Often, it is due to a failure of the 1st kind above.. where an organization has had poor strategic discussions in the past and now struggles to even start the discussions. Give me any organization and you will find back pressure against being strategic.. and often, it comes from those you would have expected to be most strategic. An example might serve us here…
Henry Ford was quite the innovator. You would have to call him a strategic leader given the innovation of the Model T and optimization of the assembly line in manufacturing. But when Ford Jr. want to enhance the Model T with new features, to maintain market share against new “feature enriched” automobiles, it was the old man that said no. Nearly destroyed Jr. and set back Ford at a time when they should have controlled the market for years. What causes this move to tactical behavior? Consider the following:
Ego & Uncertainty – The more accomplished we are at a task, the easier it becomes to be tactical. Through these tactical actions, we maintain our status and psychological need to feel purpose. We remove uncertainty, but we also blind ourselves to reality over time. That’s what happen at Circuit City.. that’s why Borders missed the online market shift… Ego.. and a need for certainty.
Jumping without a parachute – Most of us, but not all of us, are wired to think of safety first. It is what makes our hairs stand up when we are in a dark alley and we hear a noise. We are naturally wired to survive, but behaviors that allow us to survival now… may lead to death in the strategic future. New markets emerge.. new ways of doing business take hold… Just look at the video rental market.. box store to video machines to Online deliver.. Blockbuster survived for years as their market eroded, when they could have evolved and changed.. They could have been strategic.
There are those that will say it is all chaos.. and that no one can strategically define their future. This is simply not true when you review the research. Focus.. built off of intelligent and strategic discussions leads to a far better future. Just ask Cirque Du Soleil.. or would you rather invest in Barnum and Bailey?