Many companies are figuring out how to do more with less as a result of the pandemic and ensuing economic hardships. Some are relying more on automation or have cut offerings and staff to only provide what's essential. In a resource-restricted environment, a struggle we see all the time takes center stage. How do you allocate those resources so your core business keeps running strong and invest enough in strategic priorities needed to ensure your future success?
3 Keys: Focus, Alignment and Accountability
The keys to success are simple in theory, but they can be very difficult to achieve in practice. When you have limited resources, focus becomes even more imperative. In normal times, we strongly encourage choosing no more than 3-5 strategic priorities to execute at a time; all other potential strategic priorities go on an "idea bench" to consider for later. When resources are tight, scale it back so you are focused on 1-3 strategies for longer-term growth. Laser-focusing on only one growth idea at a time, even if it's with a smaller team, will bear fruit faster or fail faster—in which case, you can move on to the next idea without losing too much time.
If you are only choosing a handful of strategic ideas to advance, getting aligned is simpler as well. Helping everyone understand what you are hoping to accomplish and why it's important to the future of your business raises the stakes and motivates the team to pitch in. If your managers understand that your company's future success depends on the successful execution of a strategic priority, they will be more likely to willingly volunteer resources, time and ideas to advance the priority. The best way to ensure alignment around executing your strategy is to create a dashboard that shows how department and individual priorities ladder up to the company's strategic priority.
Remain accountable to following through on the plan to get this priority done. The best mechanisms we've found to encourage accountability are weekly team meetings where status is provided ahead of time, and the meeting is spent discussing where execution is off track and how to fix it. Capturing key tasks and making sure the team is staying up to date with the most important work connected to the strategic priority is easy in a tool like Rhythm software.
Creating Cross-Functional Teams with Intention
In most organizations, there's a temptation to keep putting the work of cross-functional teams on the same small number of employees. While it seems logical if these people have demonstrated success at tackling additional strategic work in the past, have the necessary skills, and work well with the key players involved, this could be a mistake. Be careful not to overload your best team members, and ensure you are getting the creativity of thought from diverse perspectives. It's time to give others an opportunity to shine.
Rather than going back to the same small pool of cross-functional team members, widen your thinking. Consider what skills or functional areas are needed and look at everyone on the team for potential participation. A tool like Rhythm can also help you see at a glance who may be overloaded and who may have capacity to do more strategic work.
How to Balance Day Job and Strategic Priorities
Again, focus is key. As an individual, look at what's on your plate for the quarter and strive for no more than 5 total priorities, including strategic ones. If you have a heavy lift for your day job, that may be the priority for this quarter. Is there something you can delegate, automate or delay to make room for key strategic priorities? If not, how can you keep momentum on the strategic priority while you focus on your day job? It could be as simple as a weekly lunch, breakfast meeting or a "walk and talk" with a key strategic partner to continue thinking about your strategy.
Asking teams to do more with less often results in burnout and resentment. Instead of taking this approach, focus on doing less with intention. Spend your time on a few key things that really matter, align and empower your team to do the same, and enjoy the journey to success together.
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