The Ruthless Pursuit of Less.
Many leadership teams find that setting rocks, and sticking to them, is the most difficult part of implementing EOS (The Entrepreneurial Operating System®).
It happens at almost every quarterly and annual planning session. The moment of truth when we ask the leadership team:
“What are the three most important things we can accomplish this quarter (or year) that will produce the greatest return for the business?”
After a moment of hesitation, the ideas start flowing –
- Launch our new customer service platform.
- Increase sales by 35%
- Hire 2 new senior operations leaders.
- Raise $1 million in new capital.
- Increase the number of clients that purchase 2 or more products by 25%.
- Reduce overdue receivables by 75%.
- Consolidate our 3 locations.
- Acquire ABC company.
- Outsource IT services.
- Launch a training program and improve employee benefits.
- And more…
They’re all great ideas. Any one of which could help propel the company towards its 1-Year Plan and 3-Year Picture TM.
The team stares at the list.
One or two leaders are overwhelmed by the choices, thinking about all that needs to be accomplished. Another is calculating reality and dreads what’s coming next – knowing for certain they’re going to have to do the impossible.
And then at least one (usually the owner or CEO) has that glint in their eye and is certain they can have it all.
As EOS ImplementersTM, it’s our job to strongly encourage you to choose. To fully internalize that time, people, money, technology and other necessary resources don’t grow on trees.
At every planning session, the team must deliberately choose only 3-5 priorities - EOS calls them RocksTM, as the term originally used by Stephen Covey - that the company will focus on completing. Reject all other priorities and options.
Just say no – all the time
In his book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown makes the case for the principle of “Less, but better.” He encourages you to say “no” almost all the time. To only focus on that which is essential, that which will make the greatest contribution towards the objective.
Saying yes to more than the core essential items often results in lower productivity, poorer quality and a quagmire of organization-wide unhappiness.
And he says this, one of our favorite quotes of all time: “you can multi-task, but you can’t multi-focus”. Think about that.
Team leadership guru Patrick Lencioni agrees. Take heed of his famous warning: “If Everything is Important, Then Nothing is.”
Why it’s so hard to choose
- Because choosing triggers regret. Researchers using MRIs on subjects who were faced with decisions learned that the process of making a choice lights up portions of our brains that deal with regret and emotional memories: the medial orbitofrontal region, the anterior cingulate cortex and the hippocampus.
- Because we can’t process all the information. Social scientist Barry Schwartz interprets research on the subject to mean, in part, that an abundance of choices and information may make us falsely believe that the stakes are higher than they really are regarding the outcome of our decisions. That because we are presented with so much information, the overload of options and data leads us to falsely believe that, even fairly mundane tasks have greater significance than they really do.
- Because we don’t want to be judged. Supporting a particular primary focus, especially in a leadership team setting, makes us feel vulnerable. What if we’re wrong and I publicly argued in support of the decision? Will my peers question my competence and lose trust in me? This fear is especially acute for the ultimate leader of the team or entire company.
Thoughts to Consider
- The company’s 1-Year Plan may include several goals that include both financial and other achievements – not just one objective.
- Remember, establish 3-5 quarterly company Rocks that are most impactful towards achieving your 1-Year Plan. However, while choosing only those will eliminate other options as the primary focus, it does not remove them entirely. Rocks not chosen as the primary company focus may be pushed down to departmental rocks, or individual rocks. Just be wary that you aren’t simply calling them ‘departmental’ or individual’ if they take your eye off completing the most important company rocks.
- Finally, potential rocks that were not selected for the quarter should simply be added to the “long-term” rocks compartment (and those are the things to NOT do this quarter!)