Andrew McCune
February 08, 2017

Thought for the Day: Focus Determines the Outcome

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“Your focus determines your reality.” A famous quote in, Star Wars: Episode-I, 1999, Lucasfilm, by Qui- Gon Jinn lands front and center for Leaders. The pressing issue revolves around the question of what practices help achieve excellence? Leaders and Pressing Issues, 2016 BTOES Insight Report.

For our purpose today, excellence is the successful outcome. Looking back to our quote for today, focus for reality to achieve excellence is simply to practice a right focus and a set number of priorities therein. 

To get started, let’s look at the definition of focus from Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2017, 

focus, noun, English: 2b. adjustment for distinct vision; 2c. a state or condition permitting clear perception or understanding.

Expecting that every organization has a strategic planning cycle and an Operational Excellence program, there will be a future state vision (i.e. 3-5 year objectives in a long term plan) and a current state (i.e. the annual plan). A roadmap is comprised of sequential annual plans on the journey to the future state. In this context, focus should always be on the core mission, the annual plan, and the ability to still see the future state ahead. On a year over year basis, the distractions, emergent issues, technology, and competitive forces will trend and change, but the focus on where we are now and where we are headed should remain same (within the annual plan). Practicing focus will help us know what priorities to set. 

The definition of priorities from Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2017, is the following:

priority, noun, English, plural priorities. 1b. superiority in rank, position, or privilege; 2a. a preferential rating; especially one that allocates rights to goods and services usually in limited supply <that project has top priority>; 3a. something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives

Set priorities within the annual plan to focus on the right actions that are consistent with delivering, providing, and supporting the outcomes of success. These outcomes are results as derived from daily performance along enterprise value streams, and from providing the right capabilities and capacities to perform. Allocate precious time and energy 80% on top two priorities and the remaining 20% apply to containment of emergent issues. If in practice the actual time and effort allocation is reversed, then you know you are not focused on the right priorities, but rather the tyrant of the urgent, 2017. In order to get back on track, a clear and committed effort is required to fix the issues sufficiently to rebalance back to the right priorities.

To recap, focus on the top two priorities to execute on to succeed on core mission, the annual plan, and to make progress to the future state. Apply your effort on an 80/20 basis to execute and contain emergent issues. Focus on this practice of excellence to succeed and win in your reality.

Andrew S. McCune
Senior Process Consultant, Engagement Director
Strategy Deployment, Operational Excellence, Change Management

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