Sharpening the Scalpel of Strategic Focus

Strategy renders choices about what not to do as important as choices about what to do.” — Michael Porter, business author and professor at Harvard Business School.

Sharpening the Scalpel of Strategic Focus by Laura Stack #productivity #strategic #focus

Business people have no time for the irrelevant. We certainly can’t afford to chase poorly defined goals, so hardnosed practicality generally rules. The less important aspects of one’s work must either take a backseat to the crucial or be removed altogether, leaving only the lean, profitable core. The best tool for achieving this result at a managerial level is strategic focus. Use these tips to sharpen that focus to laser keenness:

1. Define your marketplace position. Assess your current state, vis-à-vis items like fiscal health, market share, infrastructure, and labor costs. Can your resources keep up with current workflow? Do you have enough team members, or too many? Have you invested enough in your infrastructure to stay competitive—or do you over-emphasize infrastructure at the expense of production? Do you have any idea where you are, much less where you want to be?

2. Tightly define your mission and vision. If you can’t reduce your goals to a couple of simple one-line statements, then how can you determine the best route from here to there? Until or unless you have money to burn, a single-minded approach to your work generally works best.

3. Stay flexible. Don’t be too single-minded. Keep enough of an eye on the marketplace to notice when it shifts. Back in the 1990s, AT&T took so long to develop a decent cellphone network that MCI and other companies debuted theirs first. If AT&T had monitored the competition better, they might have accelerated development instead of having to buy out competitors to regain their edge.

4. Align your goals. Get all your ducks in a row, both vertically (within the chain of command) and horizontally (across work-groups). Everyone needs to know and understand organizational goals and how to achieve them. They also need to know why and how their efforts matter, to engage and empower them to achieve those goals. Make a special effort to break down informational silos between teams, so no one works at cross-purposes.

5. Communicate effectively. Your workers can’t align their performances with company goals if they don’t know what those goals are. Pull everyone into a mandatory meeting to let them know; or publish the goals in an orientation guide, employee handbook, company-wide memo, on the company intranet. Better yet, do all of the above, and answer any questions on the topic as frankly as you can.

6. Manage performance. Don’t micromanage, but regularly review workplace productivity and overall performance. Take steps to keep individual employees in line and pointed in the right direction. Wade in as necessary and untangle any roadblocks that interfere with the workflow process.

7. Monitor the metrics. Watch all your important numbers, aiming constantly for improvement. These metrics will vary according to the organization, but generally, the bottom line really is the bottom line. You can’t go far if you can’t sustain yourself.

Smooth Operator

The verb “operate” has numerous definitions, two of which seem especially apropos here: “to manage or run, as in a business,” and “to perform a surgical procedure.” To achieve the first, you may have to do the second repeatedly, especially if the body corporate suffers from the cancer of inefficiency. So use the whetstone of these seven tips to keep the scalpel of your strategic focus sharp—if only as a form of preventative maintenance.