Learning How to Focus Business Investments

on September 21, 2011

We’ve likely all heard one of the following sayings:

“If you always do what you’ve always done, then you will always get what you’ve always got.”

“If your effort wasn’t successful, look for the part that you thought wasn’t important.”

“You can have anything you want…if you hold to it with singleness of purpose.”

Are you spreading yourself too thin?

Some pretty wise stuff in these quotes. And yet, not rocket science either. I’m guessing we can all relate to one of these and maybe to all three of them. Isn’t it surprising, then, when we get bothered or frustrated that everything isn’t going as we planned? We might be trying pretty hard to accomplish a lot of things, yet not getting the results we want. In my own life and with clients, I see this play out quite often. When there is too much on the plate and people are spreading themselves thin, it’s hard to get to greatness.

In large organizations and even in our personal lives, a natural tension often emerges on the issue of investment. In companies, countless investments are made every day. Resources (people, dollars, etc.) are divided up and allocated to numerous projects and initiatives. It’s not that any of the ideas are bad ones (well, maybe a few of the ideas are bad), but it’s just that too many initiatives on the plate of tons of people tend to get most companies “what they’ve always got.”

Given today’s environment, many organizations are feeling the need to create breakthroughs more than ever. The pressure for results is there. Some tension on investment is natural. Healthy, even. I will sometimes hear clients say, “We don’t have the resources to do what we need to do,” or “We can’t stop doing that. X would never allow it.” And then, we also see clients making the hard choices to reach their goals and bring their strategies to life.

Prioritizing is tough!

Yet investing with a clear purpose focused on a clear goal is still a challenge. Why? Prioritizing in large organizations to create an aligned view of what will contribute to success is tough stuff. It means that leaders have to come together, be willing to give up on some pet projects, and view the organization through the lens of what’s best for the whole, rather than what is best for their own piece. If every executive is investing in their piece, it adds up to a lot of investment, but it doesn’t naturally add up to the best investment for the whole. And when leaders have a clear and aligned picture of the future, and are dedicated to making investments for the benefit of the whole (and not the piece), the opportunities for greatness get clearer and more compelling. Pet projects and less critical stuff come off the plate.

Some of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had occur when we use visualization with a group to unlock what couldn’t easily be seen or discussed before. Having a common picture of the current and future state is a very powerful precursor to making the best investments. Connecting and aligning people to the whole breathes new life into strategy. People are still just as busy (let’s be real about that), but with less frustration and better results. There is greater transparency, greater connectivity, and quite honestly, a bit more fun. It’s hard to get there. But when you do, that tension on investment may be just what the doctor ordered. Once everyone is working from the same page (or in Root terms, the same picture), the tension on investment was just part of the journey towards greatness.

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