If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat. ~Mark Twain
My brother has a young cat named Duke. This is one amazing little cat. First of all he is extremely cuddly, always looking for stroking and petting. And he’s adorable, with large inquisitive eyes and a playful character. He is constantly playing with their two large German Shepherds, which they good-naturedly tolerate. But most amazing of all is Duke’s hunting abilities. Every morning without fail he brings his catch to the large sliding glass door for everyone to see, then proceeds to have his breakfast.
Duke’s effective hunting prowess is a combination of two traits, focus and discipline. Duke is incredibly focused on his objective, to catch a rodent or bird to eat. That’s his primary goal. And this focus causes him to be on the lookout at all times. He prowls the garden. He searches in the woods. He checks out the wood pile and nearby trees. And when he spots a potential meal, his focus intensifies.
His prey is not just sitting idly waiting to be eaten. They are alert as well, which requires Duke’s second vital trait, discipline. Duke has the discipline to crouch and wait for what seems like an eternity. He disciplines his breathing and muscles so as not to show the slightest bit of movement that could alert his prey. His approach is highly disciplined as he inches forward. Duke has far more discipline than his prey and as a result usually winds up victorious.
Watching Duke got me thinking about organizations and business effectiveness. These two critical traits seem to be in short supply in most companies.
Focus: the center of interest or activity; the ability to keep your eye on the goal, no matter what; the ability to get others to focus on that goal as well through good communication and active enrollment; the ability to say “no” to other opportunities that might pop up. With all the distractions in our modern business world it is becoming even more difficult to focus.
Focus is the job of the senior team. It’s a leadership imperative if a company is to deliver on its strategic objectives. The senior leadership team must not only be aligned in order to focus on their collective strategic objectives but also help the entire organization focus as well. A recent informal study suggests that nearly 30% of the projects and formal initiatives in a company do not relate to any of the strategic objectives! In this case, leadership has lost focus and allowed the organization to dilute its assets, brains and cash.
You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. ~Mark Twain
Discipline: sticking to a given process or activity; the ability to follow-through and bring a task to completion; the ability to follow the process under all circumstances; the will to complete the assignment no matter how you feel. In this case, discipline refers to process discipline, again an ingredient in short supply.
Discipline is the role of management. To keep themselves on purpose, on process and to help others remain accountable for effective completion of tasks and assignments. But today’s modern organization is filled with more excuses and blame than discipline. While finding an “easy way out” or the “short cut” is just human nature, without good business processes that are well documented and that people are trained to understand, it is impossible to expect process discipline and effective delivery.
We have found that too much of a manager’s time is spent dealing with data and reports for upper management instead of helping the organization deliver results. Data does not deliver results; at best it is a help to locate process inefficiencies. Results are delivered through effective processes combined with process discipline.
Without discipline there is nothing to be proud of. ~Richard Kempe
It would be an interesting exercise for an organization to asses its Leadership Focus and Management Discipline. More rigor in these two activities might bring significant insights on the road to the effective delivery of strategic and business objectives.
(for more on the ingredients required for effective strategy execution, check out my new book: FASTBREAK – The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution.
Tight Lines . . .
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