One of the biggest drains on your organization’s time and energy are “quick win” projects. These projects often emerge at the end of a team or departmental ‘away day’. Following a brainstorm of potential ideas to improve performance, each idea is reviewed on two dimensions: (1) its overall value impact; and (2) its ease of implementation.
Unfortunately, few, if any of the ideas are both high-value and easy to implement. Instead you end up in a discussion over whether to pursue high-value, hard-to-implement initiatives, or lower-value, easy-to-implement projects. More often than not, the low-value, easy-to-deliver projects win out.
The barriers to the big prizes just seem too big and too difficult – especially at the end of a long and tiring workshop. But pursuing the “quick wins” is mistaken, for three reasons:
- Their impact is too small to register on any performance scale. This means that the project is never at the top of anyone’s priorities and is never delivered.
- They consume more effort than you originally estimate. The lack of progress means that you have to spend more time managing your project and communicating with and influencing your reluctant stakeholders.
- They prevent you from getting on with more important projects. This is the biggest reason of all. As Apple boss, Steve Jobs, once said, “It’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”
So how do you ensure that you are focused on actions that are both valuable and strategically important? The simple answer is to get on with the important stuff. If something is valuable but difficult, that is all the more reason to do it.
Here are three practical steps you can take:
Stop, reduce, slow down, delegate or defer “quick win” projects
that have neither a significant financial or strategic impact. One of the first acts that Sir Stuart Rose took when he became CEO of UK retail giant, M&S was to reduce the number of ‘strategic’ projects from over 30 to less than ten so that the energy of the organisation could be sensibly focused.
Refocus your time and effort onto high-value projects
that are directly in line with your broader strategic objectives, even if they are harder to implement. As Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, once commented, “It’s important to be stubborn on the vision and flexible on the details.” By this he meant that Amazon’s success came from relentlessly pursuing big strategic objectives and being willing to develop and test many different solutions before finding the best one.
Break these projects down into bite-sized chunks,
enabling you to create the focus, momentum, and pace that is required to deliver success. This requires that you identify the major milestones the project should deliver, as set out in the next section.
Focus on your big projects, your big wins, not meaningless “quick wins” that will simply become a distraction for your organization. As your teams then break down these major, meaningful challenges into more focused sub-goals and milestones, they will increase their energy, motivation, and enthusiasm and accelerate the delivery of your most important objectives.
© Stuart Cross 2017. All rights reserved.