Monday, March 29, 2010

Join the Good Enough Club, Get More Done

Over the past 12 months businesses across the country have been trying to do more with less. Fewer employees, less incoming revenue, increased competitive pressure. During this time, most professionals I know went back to basics exclaiming sentiments like "we can't predict when the economy will rebound, hunker down"; "revenues have declined, cut costs and stick with what you know works". While these are prudent economic moves, they are also missed opportunities.

I believe in planning. Collecting data, testing hypothesis and building support; these are essentials for good fundamentals. But to be wildly successful you have to take risks and trust your instincts.

How many times has your organization suffered from analysis paralysis? I remember many years ago working for a technology company and the Executive Team set up several task forces. I was asked to lead one on strategic channel enablement. We brought together a cross functional team of professionals. We spent many meetings brainstorming, testing ideas and developing thoughtful recommendations. The time came to present to the Steering committee who had chartered our efforts. The presentations went well, we all left feeling energized and looking forward to implementing one of the three paths outlined. Instead, we were chartered to conduct additional studies. Ultimately, we missed a window of opportunity and while the company proceeded to move forward, these initiatives were thwarted by an aggressive competitive organization that recruited many of our best potentail partners. We may never know if the recommendations would have driven additional revenue streams. But I do know, many employees, including myself, ultimately left the company to pursue other more action oriented cultures.

For all you perfectionists out there, this is going to hurt. But unless you are a surgeon, civil engineer or my hairdresser (yep, I said hair stylist), where precision is life or death critical, stop trying to be perfect. So many professionals are stifled by our desire to predict outcomes that we miss opportunities for great success.

If you remember nothing else, take note: good enough does not mean poor quality - it simply means good quality delivered in time to make a difference; and a sincere acceptance that we will make mistakes.

If you're having trouble accepting the "good enough" philosophy I recommend reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard by Chris & Dan Heath

p.s. If you couldn't already tell, this post was written with the good enough philosphy in mind.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Stop, Drop and Focus

Sitting in my office this afternoon I realized I was on a conference call, checking my email and responding to an instant message all simultaneously. I was the picture of multi-tasking perfection. Admit it, you too have juggled your fair share of opposing tasks. Talking on your cell phone, commuting to work, while scribbling yourself a note to call your electrician. Well, maybe not those things, but we all multi-task. No harm done, right? Wrong.

If you are constantly keeping several balls in the air, when do you have time to stop and think. The dirty little secret our busy calendar's don't want to enable, is when we stop doing things long enough to think we actually accomplish the most.

We all have to DO things as part of our jobs, home life and family obligations. Many of us use our hectic schedules as an excuse; telling ourselves we don't have time to stop and think. And yet, it's when we take a step back and give ourselves moments of calm that we have our most significant thoughts. Whether it's focusing on an intriguing article, listening carefully to meeting dialog or simply brainstorming on a whiteboard - you must quiet your mind to gain true insight.

Don't get me wrong. Juggling is a critical skill in our high paced professional lives. But along the way don't forget to STOP. DROP & FOCUS. You'll be amazed at how much more you can achieve.