Template thinking leads to under-prioritized laundry lists of to-do’s.
If you’ve been in the business world for more than a few months then you have probably experienced the damage such thinking causes. Lots of work being done, nothing truly important to the organization being accomplished.
Sound familiar? My favorite solution to this problem occurred in a senior management retreat for a major company. The Corporate President asked his team to put together a list of priorities for the coming fiscal year. The list that came back was a staggering 20 points long.
He sent it back. “Shorten it.”
It came back 18 points long. Every point strongly defended.
Bob said, “Fine, we’ll go with this.”
The list was carefully typed up. The first page included our mission and the first three priorities. The second page the other 15 priorities. His team approved the two pages.
Bob then proceeded to forget to copy, distribute or refer to the second page.
Objectives were built off the first page.
Programs were budgeted according to the first page.
People were hired according to the first page.
No organization can have 18 life or death priorities. That’s like being at sea with a compass that stops at North every now and then. Forcing a short list helps everyone fit their personal, team and product concerns within the key priorities of the organization.
What happened to the other 15 priorities? Many of them were accomplished because they were important to a division or a product line. Some of them were key to accomplishing the first three priorities. Some of them disappeared because they sounded more important than they were. They were sorted according to the top three priorities.
To break down template thinking you have to force difficult decisions that prioritize what is truly important for your organization.