It happens all the time, especially in start-ups and high growth companies.
We’re all busy with multiple priorities. We are understaffed. We’re bombarded by media – email, texts, phone calls, maybe even smoke signals.
On top of all this, there’s the temptation to chase all the shiny new objects and say “no” to nothing.
Unfortunately, what often happens is that these companies continue to get new irons in the fire, but complete almost nothing. This reminds me of a quote I heard in a Vistage keynote presentation:
“Strategy without execution is hallucination.”
What happens in many start-ups is that their entrepreneurial founders find it almost impossible to turn off their hunting and gathering instinct and focus on execution. In some cases, these hopeless “deal junkies” have zero appreciation for the heavy lifting involved in getting the actual work done. They get something started, then they’re off chasing the next big thing. This reminds me of another quote I heard recently:
“There will always be more great ideas than your capacity to execute.”
Write that down, memorize it, get a tattoo or print it on a T shirt. It’s that important.
What kind of environment do the above behaviors create in your organization?
- An atmosphere of “flash fires,” missed deadlines and pandemonium. Left unchecked, this becomes standard operating procedure.
- Team members become unable to sort through the noise and identify priorities.
- Communications become unclear, or they shut down completely.
- Employees experience frustration, burnout and disengagement.
- Perhaps worst of all, your early customers become frustrated due to lack of response, followup or flawed execution.
Any one of these is bad news. Add a few of these to the mix and you’re headed into a productivity and execution death spiral.
What to do? Hit pause. Regroup and refocus on communication, prioritization and execution.
- Schedule an “intervention” with the executive team. Acknowledge the problem and the need for a course correction.
- Reaffirm the organization’s strategic focus and mission-critical priorities. Just as important, identify activities that you are intentionally not going to pursue at the present time.
- Establish clear responsibilities, delegation and reasonable deadlines.
- Take time to do things right the first time. Do-overs are frustrating – and a complete waste of time.
- Hold each other accountable for accomplishments and deadlines.
- Celebrate interim accomplishments; analyze failures (without blame) and take corrective action.
Admittedly, there’s no rocket science in any of the above, and it might seem like the same old drivel from a number of management guides. What’s ironic, though, is how often these behaviors repeat themselves in different organizations.
It’s hard to resist the temptation to move fast – and fast is good! Likewise, it’s also important to realize when it’s time to put on the brakes and refocus on priorities and execution. It’s always better to knock three projects out of the ballpark than to get six projects half-way completed (half-way = nothing completed)!