In my life as a Vistage Chairman, it has become apparent to me that a great deal of business time is devoted to trivia, irrelevancies and inconsequentialities. On the other hand, far too little effort is put into assessing the real priorities in the business and devoting time and effort to them.
Too much time is spent on the urgent rather than the important. If major effort is put into solely that which is urgent, then the consequences are, almost inevitably, fire fighting. A side issue is that emphasis on the urgent invariably begets “upwards delegation”. In other words, no decisions are taken at any level other than the top.
It seems to me that managers of businesses need to take time out to decide on what is truly important and then to ensure that all other matters are delegated. However, if that freedom is to be given to managers then the quid pro quo is that they become accountable for their performance. Top management can then assess performance and work out ways in which it can be improved, perhaps incrementally, and how they (top management) can assist.
A further quid pro quo is that there must be a “no blame” culture in the business. People must be prepared to bring the bad news as well as the good without feeling that the messenger will be shot. We learn far more from our mistakes than from our successes.
Ask the questions: What should we do more of? What should we do less of? And crucially, what should we STOP doing?
All of this takes a great leap of faith but the results can be startling. The basis is that of simplicity, elimination of complexity and emphasis on the important.
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