We often think of focus on an individual level: you’re focused if you’re working on a specific task and giving it your undivided attention. If you’re trying to juggle multiple tasks, or if your attention drifts, you’re unfocused, and that’s a problem for your productivity.
On a higher level, businesses can also be focused or unfocused; if you aren’t able to create and maintain focus within your business, it might have catastrophic consequences.
The Focus Problem
So what does it mean when a business isn’t focused? There are a few possibilities, such as having no high-level goals or switching between goals rapidly, losing sight of your core values and brand identity, or shifting priorities so rapidly your employees can’t catch up.
The effects can be devastating:
Efficiency: If your business isn’t clear about what’s most important, your departments will spend time and resources on the wrong priorities. You may invest thousands of dollars and countless hours into a project that ultimately doesn’t align with your high-level vision, simply because that vision wasn’t concretely defined.
Confusion: Employees who don’t understand what your company’s main goal is can’t possibly help you work toward that goal. If they’re confused, and if the target keeps moving, morale may significantly decline, resulting in even more productivity issues.
Culture: If your organization, as a whole, isn’t focused, you can’t expect your individual employees to be focused in their own daily work. Workplace culture tends to trickle down from the top, so whatever tone you set in the upper echelons is going to manifest throughout the office—and as you well know, unfocused employees aren’t productive employees.
Bringing Focus Back to Your Business
Even if you feel like your business is more focused than the median company, there are some strategies that can help you become even more focused:
Revisit your business plan. It’s a good idea to revise your business plan regularly, but regardless of whether you have or haven’t, returning to this original blueprint can help you clarify some of your main focal points. Your business plan likely contains the original vision for the company, including the nature of the brand, your core values, and your mission. Are you adhering to those standards? Or have you drifted? Use this as a touch point to ground yourself and reevaluate your position.
Set a handful of high-level goals for your company. Oftentimes, an overabundance of goals will cause your focus to drift. Wipe the slate clean and set a handful (i.e., five or fewer) of high-level goals for your company. For example, do you want to improve client retention by 20 percent through incentive programs? Are you trying to cut material costs by 10 percent? Be specific here, but make sure the goals are broad enough to justify multiple projects and ground-level tasks.
Tie everything back to those goals. When looking at projects and tasks, make a conscious effort to tie everything back to those overarching goals. For example, does your idea for a new product tie back to your goal to improve client retention? If not, it means you may be losing focus. If it does, you may justify keeping it. You can always add or subtract high-level goals as you see fit, but this stage is meant to be a kind of barometer, enabling you to detect when you’re maintaining focus, and when you’re drifting away from it.
Only set one “top” priority at a time. It’s tempting to instill a sense of urgency in your team by stressing the importance of all your goals, but remember—if everything is high priority, nothing is high priority. Set an expectation with your managers that only one item should be the top priority within a team at any given point in time. That priority shouldn’t switch rapidly, and should be clearly defined; this way, your managers will be forced to maintain focus on their high-level objectives, and your employees won’t be forced to constantly change gears in response to new goals or ideas.
These tactics can help your business become more focused on its identity, its goals, and its execution, from the high-level vision of your leadership to the ground-level tasks of your employees. Deviating from your main priorities is tempting, especially when new opportunities present themselves, but it’s no coincidence that the most successful companies also happen to be some of the most focused ones.
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