The debilitating effects of ‘update-itis’

It’s the scourge of most boardrooms. A virulent and disabling disease that paralyses real progress in organisations. The symptoms are all too familiar. The team gets together for its regular meeting. Hearts are already heavy from seeing the agenda – which is a terrifyingly long list of updates from departments and projects. Each presents the prospect of a long, rambling and often purposeless input from a member of the team – during which most of the rest of the team will switch off. There’s also a clear heirarchy. Finance always comes first and takes longer than it should. Everyone then takes their turn until, if the team gets that far down the agenda, HR get a few minutes to try to get the attention and support of a, by now exhausted, team. It’s a weary and discouraged team who leave the room. The meeting has been a long list of mostly problems and bad news. Some actions have been noted but may issues remain unaddressed. Inevitably, the agenda wasn’t completed.
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Categories: Priority Conversations.

The Prioritisation Conundrum – Part 3

Staying sane and productive in an overloaded world In the last two issues, I talked about prioritisation. In May, I described the four most widely accepted approaches to prioritisation and explained why each tends to fail. In June, I described a different approach which overcomes these problems. But what do you do when you can’t do any more to reduce the workload? How do you keep yourself and those around you from getting so overloaded that the work you do is compromised – or, worse still, that your heath suffers? In short, how do you cope better when all options for reducing the load have been exhausted? Coping is not a dirty word Many of the leaders I work with are struggling. The environment they work in is so tough that their work is being seriously compromised, their physical health is suffering, and they sometimes feel so desperate that tears are not at all uncommon when they get a chance to talk about how they really feel. They soldier on because they know that there’s a limit to
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Categories: Priority Conversations and Why Leadership Teams Matter.

The Prioritisation Conundrum – Part 2

Four approaches, no solutions… In the last issue, I described the four most widely accepted approaches to prioritisation – together with why each tends to fail: 1.  The strategy approach Stands aside from the organisation and decides the most important things that have to be done. (But almost always tends to exacerbate overload by adding new priorities to what’s already going on). 2.  The sorting approach Lists all of the things that are currently happening, then consolidates and organises them. (But tends to simply aggregate things together into ‘mega priorities’ and fails to remove much from the list.) 3.  The time management approach Uses the concept of personal time management to address the problems of pressures on key individuals. (But doesn’t address the problems of interdependencies or organisational prioritisation.) 4.  The ‘stop doing things’ approach Demands that some activity is identified and eliminated or deferred. (Obviously a necessary end but very rarely are candidate activities identified or deprioritised – and doesn’t deal with interdependencies or individual needs/agendas). The leaders I meet know
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Categories: Priority Conversations and Why Leadership Teams Matter.

The Prioritisation Conundrum – Part 1

Are we all going mad?   There are a few things that leaders I meet always tell me. One of them goes something like this:  “We’re just trying to do too much at once. Each initiative makes perfect sense in isolation, but, when you take them all together, there’s just far too much. As a result, the things we are trying to do are going too slowly, quality is compromised and we rarely complete things properly or embed them fully. That means our results aren’t nearly as good as they could and should be.” What they also say (although often only privately) is: “The human cost of our failure to prioritise is already large and could be disastrous. The pressure on me, my colleagues and my team is extreme. I’m sure many of us are thinking actively about whether it’s all worth it. I know I am. I fear that a number of good people will leave. Worse still, there are already signs that it’s costing some of us our health…” It’s an epidemic. It’s
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Categories: Priority Conversations and Why Leadership Teams Matter.

Are you and your people focussed on the right future?

  What does success look like? There’s a huge amount of psychological research which shows how humans perform better with a clear and compelling picture of what they are trying to achieve. In my experience, however, most leaders give far more attention to ‘clear’ and much less to ‘compelling’. Even worse, in their efforts to serve many different purposes, the terminology introduces complexity and confusion which actively reduce performance. Unravelling this is made more difficult by the fact that each organisation (and sometimes each person) use the many terms in different ways. In describing the terms below, therefore, my intention is not to give a definitive meaning to each but rather is to explain the differences and problems that can arise.   So many terms… Budgets These are the probably the simplest, and certainly the most common, but are also the most overused. Every organisation needs budget figures to define the minimum acceptable level of performance – particularly for helping to communicate likely outcomes to financial stakeholders (owners, shareholders etc).
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Categories: Ambition Conversations, Changing Your Team, Learning Conversations, Priority Conversations, Relationship Conversations, Stories and Case Studies, and Why Leadership Teams Matter.

Balanced Scorecard Report

To give your strategy a fighting chance of success, you must be able to do two things supremely well: prioritize strategic initiatives and integrate them for maximum impact. However, both of these tasks—in even the best-run organizations—more often than not prove inherently difficult and frustrating.
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Categories: Priority Conversations.

How do you get your team pulling in the same direction?

Focus is the price of excellence A former colleague of mine was fond of repeating this at every available opportunity. It may be a little trite but it is also true. Whether you are talking about individual high achievers, teams or whole organisations – one thing that is true of them all is a relentless (even obsessive) focus on a few, critical things. Repetition, dedication, energy, persistence and determination are all brought to bear on a narrow set of priorities – so it is not surprising that capability then grows and performance improves. When I was setting up in business someone said to me that if my offer didn’t hit at least one of the clients top three priorities they would never buy. The reason for this is simple; every leader has a long list of things they know need to be done or changed. Unfortunately, they also have to live with the daily reality that they (and their organisations) simply do not have time to act on them all.
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Categories: Priority Conversations.

How to get your team and organisation pulling in the same direction

Aligning your team and organisation Have you ever stopped to consider what ‘money’ really is? Is it pieces of shaped metal, ink on paper or, increasingly, a series of ones and zeros stored on wafers of silicon? Actually, money is better defined by what we understand it to mean to us. That makes more sense, but if that’s true then the single word money means lots of different things:- To a business leader, it may mean the ultimate arbiter of organisational success. To a beleaguered politician, it may mean a scarce resource to be fought for at budgeting time. To someone living in poverty, it may mean a lifeline to a better life (or just survival) To a religious fundamentalist, it may mean the source of all evil. Whatever the context, the substance of money has little importance. The significance of money (and particularly, the way it causes us to act) is defined by the meaning that we each attribute to it. It’s called Social Construction… Err what’s that? Berger
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Categories: Priority Conversations.