Businessman jugglingCompanies achieve more, more quickly, when they focus on just a few, clear objectives at any one time.

At the heart of this is a paradox – we achieve more by doing less. Although few of us truly understand the limits of our abilities, we really shine when we are focused on just a few objectives – ideally one!

The mistake many executives make is to confuse setting the pace with increasing the number of priorities they expect their people to pursue. But setting stretching goals and demanding great results is completely different to laying down too many objectives and simply confusing your people.

The impact that effective prioritisation can have on organisational performance was brought home to me this week at meetings I had at two of my clients.

The first meeting was with a client that is struggling to maintain historic growth levels. In that meeting the executive team felt unable to reduce their long list of ‘strategic’ priorities, because each item, on its own, was a good idea and they didn’t want to stop doing anything that might help re-start their growth.

Their problem is that by pursuing the long list of projects the executives will be unable to give their biggest priorities sufficient attention to deliver them effectively.

The second meeting was with a client that has continued to thrive through the downturn, and was a completely different experience. The CEO refused to allow his team to pursue half of the ideas discussed until they had, in his words, taken the first set of projects “off the agenda.”

The result was a high degree of energy and a strong feeling of confidence that they will deliver their priorities and achieve their targets.

How well does your organisation set and pursue the few priorities that will have the biggest business benefits?

© Stuart Cross 2009. All rights reserved