There is a downward performance cycle that affects many organisations. Have you seen this cycle in your business?

  1. An executive team raises the bar and sets stretching goals
  2. It then identifies the big initiatives that will – hopefully – deliver the organisation’s ambitions
  3. Quickly, however, doubt creeps in and there is insufficient belief that these ‘big rocks’ will be able to meet the stretching targets
  4. More, smaller initiatives are added to the agenda to give the executive team more confidence that the new performance targets will be achieved
  5. But as there is now too much on the organisation’s plate, the desired performance fails to materialise.
  6. New goals are set to bridge the gap, and new initiatives are agreed.

And so the cycle continues. The performance shortfall leads to further stretch goals and even more initiatives in the hope that something will work and get the company out of the hole it has dug for itself.

So where is the best place to break the cycle? As always it is the point that will have the biggest impact, and in this case it is the establishment of the major priorities.

Executives need to critically test that these few objectives will be able to meet their performance targets. If they don’t believe that achieving these objectives will be sufficient they need different, not more priorities.

But if they do believe that the ‘big rocks’ are big enough they shouldn’t respond to initial performance shortfalls by adding new projects that will simply divert management attention. They should continue to focus on their priorities and find new ways to achieve the objectives they have originally agreed.