Focus on the Widely Important Goals in 2020

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In the book, ‘The 4 Disciplines of Execution’ by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling, the 1st Discipline is ‘Focus on the Wildly Important’. The authors explain this to mean – focus your finest effort on the one or two goals that will make all the difference, instead of giving mediocre effort to dozens of goals.

As we start the year, intent on executing our 2020 ‘Business Plan and Budget’ it is worth exploring this discipline. That is of course based on the assumption that you have taken the time to develop a ‘2020 Business Plan and Budget’. If not, there is still time to take a weekend and plan for the year ahead. A Business Plan does not need to be more than one page.

Every Business Plan should have a number of set goals for the year. These goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound, and if achieved, you would consider having had a successful year.

The 1st Discipline of Execution, advises you to focus on a few goals instead of many goas. They recommend 2-3 goals, no more. The challenge for most business leaders is that they get caught up in the whirlwind of daily activity and they lose sight of these high priority goals.

They make the point that conventional thinking is to say all of our goals are Priority 1. 1st Discipline thinking is – Many of our goals are important, but only two or three are wildly important. They are the goals we must achieve. There will always be more good ideas than there is capacity to execute.

In the organizational whirlwind, people track countless numbers – finances, customer satisfaction, sales and so forth. A couple of new goals can get lost in this storm. While you don’t lose track of the numbers in the whirlwind, Discipline 1 requires intense focus on a few critical numbers – the measure of success on the 2-3 key priority goals (wildly important goals).

The key to identifying your 2-3 wildly important goals is to ask yourself or your team – ‘If every other area of our operation remained at its current level of performance, what are the one or two areas where change would have the greatest impact?’ This question changes the way you think and lets you clearly identify the focus that would make all the difference. Remember, 80 percent of your or your team’s effort will still be directed at sustaining the whirlwind, but 20 percent will be focused on the 2-3 wildly important goals.

Your wildly important goals will come from one of two categories: either from within the whirlwind or from outside it. Within the whirlwind is that something is badly broken and must be fixed or that if a particular activity is focused on, it would bring considerable benefits. Outside the whirlwind is about repositioning yourself strategically.

Once you have identified your 2-3 wildly important goals, focus yourself or your organization on these goals by following the following 4 rules:

  • Do not focus on more than 2-3 wildly important goals at the same time
  • The attainment of these 2-3 wildly important goals will yield substantial benefits
  • The 2-3 goals must be SMART

The following is a Goal Planning Table

Items   Goals Measurement Deadline
Wildly Important Goals 1      
  2      
  3      
Whirlwind Goals 1      
  2      
  3      
  4      

Fig. 1  Goal Planning Table

Wishing you success in 2020.

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