by Alan Willett

“It is no use saying “we are doing our best.” You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”

— Winston Churchill

In my consulting, I have seen some organizations working long hours but not achieving the organizational mission. In their minds, they are giving their “best-effort” because they are working so hard. Often, they are also doing very high-quality work.

However, on examination, they are not doing what is necessary.  The following are the keys to getting your organization to do just “their best” but to do what is necessary.

Set clear, motivating goals.  When JFK proposed “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth by the end of the decade,” he put out clear, easily measurable goals. This enabled everyone in the organization to evaluate their effort against this challenging goal constantly. Does your organization have clear, measurable goals for people to strive for and measure themselves against?

Rationally manage risks. It is key to create an environment where there is no fear about raising risks and issues. Your organization should consistently measure activities against goals and safely speak about where the risks are. The most important piece of this task is to take appropriate action when it is required.

Eliminate unnecessary activities.  One leader wrote to me about how he did Épée Fencing in college. He found that the more he eliminated extraneous movements, the better fencer he became. Removing the extraneous made more room for the necessary. The same is now true of his organization.

Today’s picture is the targeting system for speed from my book Lead With Speed.  This targeting system helps leaders focus the organization on doing what is necessary. The center of the target is a reminder to focus on what is needed to provide your customers with “wow” value.  

The leaders with whom I discussed this topic all agreed. This attribute of the exceptional leadership mindset is a subtle one that needs constant attention. It is necessary!

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett