Less is More

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How Focus Leads to Results

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Executive leaders put a great deal of thought and effort into creating strategic plans for their organization. Later down the road leaders may refer to those strategic plans and wonder, “Why haven’t we achieved what we aimed to accomplish 3 years ago?” Just because the organization has been busy doing a lot of stuff, doesn’t necessarily mean the right things were done to achieve results. It’s important to focus on executing strategic actions that matter and to monitor progress toward the organization’s larger goals on an annual basis.

Focus on What Matters

Using the organization’s strategic plan proactively, teams develop annual strategic goals and actions to align to the desired results. Leaders use progress monitoring to gauge if the team is on track and focused on the strategic actions that will lead to results. If we execute without a hyper focus on the actions that matter, too much time can get away from us, and we won’t reach the results we were trying to achieve. If we are trying to do too much, nothing gets executed well.

When leaders share information about strategy with their organizations, the problem isn’t that people aren’t getting enough communication; it’s that people are getting too much communication and they’re not sure what to prioritize. Middle managers are four times more likely to cite a large number of corporate priorities and strategic initiatives as obstacles to understanding the organization’s strategy than they are to mention a lack of communication. To help our teams execute the greater strategy, it’s important to narrow the focus to what really matters.

How can we focus on what matters? We recommend choosing only 2 or 3 strategic actions to accomplish in each area of the strategic plan such as community, finance, communication, etc. Each of those actions should have an owner. That owner is then responsible and held accountable for executing the action to achieve the larger goal. To present this visually, we recommend using a scorecard, which communicates the strategic areas of focus, goals defined for those areas, and strategic actions.

We use progress monitoring to determine where we are in relation to our goals and actions every 45, 60, or 90 days. If the scorecard is being used, we can highlight each action item with a color: green to indicate exceeding goal, yellow to indicate we are on track, and red to indicate we are behind. Sharing this information with our teams and our community holds the owners of the goals accountable and facilitates open communication.

During conversations with employees, check-in to determine if individuals are aligning their work to the highest priorities. Ask questions to clarify if the strategic goals of the organization have been well explained. For some, the idea of monitoring progress on strategic actions to accomplish goals is unfamiliar. It will take time for everyone to adapt and adjust. It will take time to see results, but there is power in setting a few specific priorities and pursuing them relentlessly.

Focus to Achieve Results in 3 Steps:

  • Does your organization have a strategic plan?
  • What does success look like for your organization?
  • Communicate your strategic plan with everyone on the team and ask for feedback to validate their understanding.
  • Based on the strategic plan, what are your departmental goals? Individual goals? Are the goals measurable?
  • Narrow your goals down to the 2-3 that are most important and aligned to your strategic plan.
  • Consider breaking down yearly goals into quarterly increments.
  • Communicate department and team goals with everyone so team members can develop their individual goals.
  • What actions can you take to move the organization forward to hit the goal?
  • How can I prioritize to ensure those things get done?
  • Monitor progress toward goals regularly to determine team members are strategically aligning their daily and weekly actions to priorities.

Ask Your Team

During connections with your team members, clarify their understanding of the strategic goals and how their roles reflect those goals. Ask, “What actions are you prioritizing this month?”. Offer feedback about how those actions align with the overall goal for the organization. This will give you an awareness of team members who might not be prioritizing the right actions and opportunities to support those individuals.

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