Dave Packard, co-founder of computer giant Hewlett Packard once provided this brilliant quote. Packard believed that business leaders try to do too much at once, lose focus and become irrelevant.

I sincerely believe that most people and teams can achieve far more than they think is possible, and that organisations can get much, much more out of their existing capacity. But this is only possible if they are working to a small, focused number of objectives.

Adding new projects to the ‘to-do lists’ of managers who are already running at full tilt simply means that nothing gets done very well. As a result, enthusiasm for the new strategy and belief in the leadership team begins to wane, and there is even less chance of success for further strategic projects.

Here are three ways to reduce your levels of corporate indigestion:

  1. Projects, initiatives and activities that are no longer relevant to the strategy are stopped, killed and killed again! It amazes me how some projects take on a life of their own – regardless of what’s important to the business. A project is not, and should never be, for life. You should review your project list twice a year and seriously consider eliminating projects that have been running longer than 12 months.
  2. Your managers have no more than 3-5 key performance objectives. In my experience it is far better to have people focused on a short set of objectives that are, if necessary, changed two or three times a year, than it is to give them a long list of 10 or 20 ‘priorities’.
  3. Decisions on how the strategic objectives should be delivered are made as close to the front line as possible. Companies such as GE have used processes where front-line teams work out for themselves how best to make improvements and deliver their performance targets. That way, there is involvement in the process, ownership of the outputs and a far better chance of unnecessary work being taken out. Whenever front-line managers talk about how they are too busy with the ‘day job’ to deliver the ‘strategy’ I know that change is being imposed on them from above and organisation’s delivery capacity is being stretched unnecessarily.

© Stuart Cross 2010. All rights reserved.