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Refine Your Focus to Implement Change Faster

November 13, 2019

Managing change

While the tortoise may have won his race by going slow and steady, in today’s marketplace it’s the organizations that can implement change as fast as a bunny that will have the competitive edge. But too often, all the focus is on strategic planning, with little thought given to shaping the culture that will aid the actual implementation of the desired strategic priorities. To execute change quickly and efficiently, a company must pay as much attention to creating an implementation focus as to setting business priorities.

Many organizations become so overwhelmed by the amount of work needed to achieve true transformation that they spend a lot of time juggling countless priorities and shifting attention from one thing to the next. Improving execution success starts with integrating an attainable change plan along with the strategic plan.

The best strategic planning sessions help identify misalignments, or gaps, between your strategic intent and your organization’s current execution. Strategy sessions typically leave leaders with a laundry list of goals and priorities they must tackle and make room for on their already full plates. Trying to check off all the boxes at once, rather than developing a methodical course of action to be implemented, will lead to frustrated and overwhelmed employees and managers, who will likely spend more time reporting on, preparing for, and attending meetings than actually working on completing the initiatives.

Narrowing your change management focus

Devising a plan that implements just three changes at a time will help your team stay more focused and enable you to implement the changes faster because your resources won’t be spread too thin. It will also lead to incremental successes that boost morale and give all stakeholders a sense of forward progress.

Narrowing the focus allows organizations to start implementing immediately and spend their limited time getting the work done. Granted, some changes are too big to narrow down to just three tactical actions, but you can still benefit from the power of focus by creating a roadmap to complete a select number of strategic initiatives or priorities at a time.

Sometimes the biggest obstacle to refining your focus is institutional culture or habit. To break the habit of overloading the plates of leaders and employees, consider the following leadership techniques:

Work within the system that’s there. Focus and prioritize the resources that you do control on a smaller number of actions first. If you oversee six of 12 business initiatives, choose two or three now, and then several months later refocus your attention on the next two or three.

Reinforce focus. As any parent knows, to create a new expectation you must not only overtly teach the principles but also reinforce them whenever possible. The same principle used in childrearing also holds when changing organizational culture. If you have a meeting or bring someone into your office and ask about eight things, you’ve reinforced the old culture. Live and model the new culture by focusing every conversation on just two or three priorities.

Run interference. If your organization struggles with focus and you don’t have the full support of senior leaders, you must be prepared to run interference when you and your employees don’t have answers for the status of all your team’s assigned initiatives. When people ask about initiatives that aren’t currently being worked on, you must step in and say, “Thanks, but that’s not our focus right now.”

Put your foot down. If you’re in a leadership position and able to do so, play the boss card. Insist that the organization sharpen its focus onto only a few initiatives. Don’t allow your employees to work on eight or more objectives simultaneously. Using your influence and authority, help create a culture of focus and hold your employees accountable only for three initiatives at a time.

For those who feel overwhelmed by organizational changes, the power of focus can be truly transformative and extremely productive, and it will get you to the finish line in record time.

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About The Author

Principal of AlignOrg Solutions, Reed Deshler specializes in developing strategic organization designs and helping companies bring them to fruition. As an organization consultant, he works with executive teams and HR teams to define winning strategies, align their organization and business models for success, and mobilize employees and stakeholders in the desired direction. He’s guided Fortune 500 companies—including 3M, Abbott, Hertz, Chevron, Cisco, and General Mills—as well as middle-market businesses and nonprofits through change successfully and helped them solve complex organizational challenges. Deshler is co-author of Mastering the Cube: Overcoming Stumbling Blocks and Building an Organization that Works, a guidebook that outlines AlignOrg Solutions’ organization alignment process. He regularly writes and speaks on issues related to organization transformation and ways to implement—and create buy-in—among stakeholders for new business designs. Learn more about becoming an Alignment Leader.

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