Posts Tagged ‘focus’

dispersion1Life is so scattered and overwhelming. So much going on inside the mind and outside in the real world. We spend so much time trying to get our hands around it all, trying to collect it and manage it.

We think we are jugglers who must continue to juggle more and more things. We think must hone our juggling skills to take on every new problem that comes along, become virtuoso jugglers to cope with the world.

We invent new technologies to help us juggle more and more. We become tour de forces of juggling. We become multitasking, juggling maniacs. We get really good at it. The complexity of it all.

Except isn’t that really bad? I know dealing with complexity seems so much more impressive to others than dealing with the simplified. Yet we expend so much energy juggling we hardly have any left for the task and objects we are juggling. They are just tasks to be completed so we can move onto the next. We lose context. Lose track of the reasons why.

What if we just stopped juggling? Just said no. Just came to grips with the unsustainability of it all. Let all the balls just fall to the ground. Let them just disperse back into nature. It’s a leap of faith, I know. I’m asking you to walk through the looking glass, which is full of the unknown. Let’s at least do it in our minds. It will be fun. Trust me.

Imagine those fifty balls in the air held up by your juggling skills, by your project plans, by your smart devices, your applications with in applications and so on. Now imagine turning the machine off. All the balls have fallen to the floor and scattered about the room. And in front of you see this complex system that’s trying to hold it all together. Probably rather too complex for its own good.

Now look around the room at all the balls on the floor. Think about the things you are trying to achieve or must achieve. Rank them, prioritize them. The higher the priority the more difficult it is to juggle. Now start picking them up in order. Start to juggle them. Ignore the old system. Juggle as many as you can without gadgets and applications. Juggle them so that you’re giving each object the attention it deserves. In this way the new system will self-define itself without sacrificing the needs of the individual pieces. That’s good juggling.

Are you meeting all your main priorities? Maybe, maybe not. If not, is that semi-critical important ball one that you need to juggle or could someone else? These are the questions you need to ask for every ball you want to bring back into play. You have to make choices. As one strategist once said, he who defends everything defends nothing. We all have to leave things undone.

Let the balls fall. For your own good. For the balls’ good. For everyone’s good. Let your priorities disperse so they can come back together more focused than ever. Be the ball.

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dunce2I like this headline because it’s almost as obnoxious as “Everything You Know About Change Management is Wrong.” I love those kinds of headlines. Great way to offend your audience and under-deliver. Needless to say there are no indisputable things about anything and I certainly hope you are not wrong about everything.

My goal here was to force myself to choose five tenants I could put my convictions behind (and of course, get your attention) . Creativity via limitations. Here’s what I came up with.

1. What to Change

In my last assignment I often said our hardest job was not knowing how to do it but what to do it to. What do we attempt to change? That is THE question.

I blatantly steal from the Theory of Constraints here. But instead of focusing on what is the most significant process constraint to change, we focus on what is the most significant cultural/organizational constraint we need to change.

What cultural behavior or norms stop us from making improvements? Organizational silos? Incentive systems? Education? Distrust? Chaos?

They could all be constraints. Which one is the lynchpin? Evaluate and make a decision. It’s not an exact science.  You might be wrong. That’s OK. The act of trying to solve the problem next to the lynchpin will probably lead you to the lynchpin. And that’s progress. It’s part of the process.

2. Strategy and Tactics

As Eli Goldratt put it, strategy is the “What For” and tactics is the “How To,” and they need to work together.

The What For defines what we are trying to achieve. The emotions involved with the What For make it complex because people’s desires are fluid and so their attitudes towards the What For will be dynamic.

The How To will be less complex but often more complicated, as it may involve many layered steps and processes that need to be tracked.

The key is to keep bouncing them off each other to make sure they remain aligned.

3. It’s the Psychology, Duh

If you don’t understand psychology, you will fail. The complexity of the What For requires you understand the human condition. It requires that you respond to each person’s reaction to the situation individually, one interaction at a time. There’s no one size fits all. That’s called propaganda. No one likes propaganda.

Emotional Intelligence. We are all motivated by emotions. To rely solely on cold-hard facts and logic is to ignore the human condition. No one wants to be treated like a cog in the process machine. Find a way to connect. If you can’t, find someone who can. It’s worth the effort.

4. Focus, Focus, Focus

There are a thousand thousand problems to solve. Every twisting turn in the path will call for change. It’s a siren’s call. Stay focused. There will always be something else that wants your attention. Better to do one thing well than a thousand poorly.

The reasons to stay focused are many. My go to reason is that if you do the right thing well, many of the other problems just cease to exist. The other reason I go to is that focusing minimizes variables. Too many projects means too many variables. Too many variables makes it hard to know which ones are working for good and which ones are working for evil.

So what do we say to the god of distractions. Not today.

5. Go back to the beginning. Often.

Keep revisiting the first four points.

This is important especially because of point #4. All the siren calls will fill the system with noise. It’s easy to lose the signal.

It’s also important because as you dive into the tactical details going back to what you are trying to achieve keeps you out of those rabbit holes that get you so easily caught up in the wrong priorities. Because just like you have to pick and choose what to change at the higher level, you also have to pick and choose what to change at the detail level.

And for point #3, make sure you aren’t losing people. It’s a long haul. You’ll have to work to keep them engaged.

Make sure it’s all still working together.

So there it is. Ready to be put right into action. Oh, the indisputability of it all.