“Generating activity is not a problem; in fact it is easy. The fact that it is easy makes the real problem harder to solve. The problem is getting the right things done – the things that matter, the things that will have an impact, the things a company is trying to achieve to ensure success. A high volume of activity often disguises a lack of effective action. We can mistake quantity for quality and then add to it, which merely makes things worse.” – Stephen Bungay from his excellent book, The Art of Action.
I see this challenge in many companies show up in two ways. One is where CEOs or department managers give out actions because they think they should, rather than because they need to be done. The other is where actions are handed out because they’re what’s top of the CEO’s or manager’s mind at the time.
We can get to a better place. The most effective way I’ve seen (and the one we use in our work with companies to help them implement strategy and values) uses the relative stability of quarterly goals along with weekly or fortnightly sprints to adjust along the way, and clarity between long-term business-building initiatives and operational ones. It just needs structure – a structure that balances and schedules operational needs for the business with actions to incrementally drive towards strategic goals.
And the patience of leadership to not feel that all voids need to be filled with more activity, but rather that we can be less busy if we’re doing the right things.
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