The Key to Moving Fast Enough When Everything is Important
Listen to Episode 73:
Episode 73 Transcript:
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Inc. − enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of Success. On the web at BusinessAdvance.com. And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks, Chris. I’m Pam Harper, founding partner and CEO of Business Advancement Inc., and with me is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi, Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi, Pam. As always, it’s wonderful to be joining you again − and if this is your first time listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration, and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders like you, and your companies, to accelerate your next level of success. Now, Pam, what are we talking about today?
Pam Harper: Moving fast enough when everything is important.
Scott Harper: Oh, yeah. That’s frequently the case. Let’s talk about that.
Pam Harper: Well, the thing is that so many people are worried about getting away from inertia [in their companies].
Scott Harper: Yeah, breaking out when it’s not going fast enough. “We’re not doing what we need to do to meet our objectives [as fast as we need to].”
Pam Harper: That’s right, but here’s another interesting trend. People are coming over to me now and saying, “Pam, what do you do when everything’s important?”
Scott Harper: “We’re moving too fast.”
Pam Harper: “We’re moving fast. In fact, we’re so fast, we don’t even know if we can stay intact.”
Scott Harper: Wow − that’s a challenge.
Pam Harper: That’s right, and it’s not one company; it’s a number of CEOs that I’ve been meeting lately.
Scott Harper: You say it’s a trend. What do you think is causing this? Why is this popping out of the woodwork now?
Pam Harper: Well, there are a lot of things that are converging all at once. You’ve got new technology. You’ve got the ever-present Internet news and social media.
Scott Harper: There’s more and more competition from all points of the world…
Pam Harper: That’s right, and of course, customers are expecting faster response, right?
Scott Harper: New technology, I guess, causes that, doesn’t it?
Pam Harper: There’s a race for emerging opportunities that’s going on at the same time, because with all that technology there’s more opportunity.
Scott Harper: You really have to be able to go fast and do everything well.
Pam Harper: That’s right. But here’s the thing − most people who are leading organizations have a real sense that it’s important to prioritize. We’ve got that one down.
Scott Harper: Yeah, to make sure that [critical] things that are going now really happen properly, [and less important things are delayed or eliminated].
Pam Harper: The issue is that everything is important. These people have gone through and prioritized. They’ve said, “You know what, it’s all important;” and it really is. It’s very possible to have a situation like that.
Scott Harper: Yeah, it’s true. Now everything’s important, and we have to be able to take on what’s coming up new. People just hate to let go of opportunities as they come across a doorstep, because you don’t when the next big thing is going to happen.
Pam Harper: Exactly. The common wisdom is, if you stretch, you’ll grow.
Scott Harper: Yeah. Let’s do a stretch goal. “Yeah, we’ve got a lot on our plate. But let’s take a little bit more in, because stretching makes you grow and get stronger. You can do it.” Sometimes this really is the case; however, sometimes it isn’t.
You know we like to work out; I like to lift and try to stay fit. But, people who don’t know us won’t know that not that long ago, I was working out [and had a mishap]. I’d done legs and chest, and I was doing pull-ups. I was getting tired. I was fatigued, but I said, “I can do one more. I can do two more. I can do three more…”
Pam Harper: I remember.
Scott Harper: I ignored the warning signs, and I ended a tearing rotator cuff muscle.
Pam Harper: It was pretty bad.
Scott Harper: It was bad. It was painful, and it slowed me down for a long time. The thing is, yeah − you can stretch to a certain point, but at some point, something’s got to give. [The question is,] how do we make that decision, whether it’s in life or in business?
Pam Harper: You need to be able to look at the same kinds of warning signs, in a sense. For example, a company that had been our client a number of years ago was changing business models. He was actually doing a lot of things. This company was scaling. They were changing business models. They were changing their branding. They were doubling the size of their staff because they needed to. They were relocating physically to a space that was twice the size of what they had.
Scott Harper: They were successful, and they were scaling now to set themselves to be even more successful. Okay.
Pam Harper: That’s right. And in a number of locations, not just one but multiple locations. All of this was important. All of this was critical, and when he approached me, it was with the idea that − he said, “I see that this is all important-”
Scott Harper: “But my head is spinning.” Yeah. “How do I get it all done?”
Pam Harper: “How do I get it all done? Let’s work together.” Kudos for him for recognizing how many things were going on at the same time.
Scott Harper: And that there was risk.
Pam Harper: Also, he was at risk not just for the things that were going on not coming off well. The other risk was that he was going to miss some additional opportunities that he could see. This all had to be in place.
What we did is rather than just prioritizing − because it was all important − we triaged within what was important, all of those things that I just mentioned. This gave them a starting point to reconcile what should have been happening with what was happening. They then worked together to make new decisions and take new, bold action to make it all happen. And the company grew by three hundred percent in one year.
Scott Harper: And this was enabled by triage.
Pam Harper: Triage. When everything is important, the first step is to triage.
We’re going to take a quick break right now, though. When we come back, we’ll talk more about what triaging is and the concepts behind it. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, on the web at BusinessAdvance.com. We enable successful leaders and their companies to accelerate to their next level of growth and success. If you like what you’re hearing, spread the good word. Go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, select episode 73, and use the share links for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter on the top right of the page to tell your social media communities all about us. And while you’re there, sign up for our weekly alert of upcoming episodes so you’ll always be up-to-date.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper − that’s me − and Scott Harper. Today, Scott and I are talking about the key to moving fast enough when everything is important. You can check out resource materials for this episode by going to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, episode 73, and scrolling down to “resources”.
Scott Harper: Pam, we were talking about how to make things happen when everything is important and you feel really stretched. You talked about the importance of triage. It’s very traditional to talk about prioritizing, but you said there’s a distinction between prioritizing and triage. What’s that distinction, and why do you think it’s different?
Pam Harper: Well, prioritizing, in my mind, is distinguishing clear differences between cost and reward or- If you think about Stephen Covey and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which is a great book, he talks about the urgent and important and prioritizing. That’s great if you can make those distinctions between what is clearly important and urgent and things that really shouldn’t be done at all.
Scott Harper: Yeah, or nice to do, but don’t really need to be done. Okay.
Pam Harper: That’s right. Triaging is different. Think about medical situations, and I use that word advisedly. Everything is important.
Scott Harper: Well, life is important.
Pam Harper: It really is. Then you have to start making some finer distinctions. The purpose here is to focus on where your energy and resources will do the most good, and that’s critical. Just as it is in a life and death situation for a person, it’s critical in a company or an organization, as well. When people really see everything as important, my experience is everybody starts going off in their own directions.
Scott Harper: Yeah, especially if what I think is important is different from what you think is important and we’re not necessarily effectively communicating.
Pam Harper: Well, that’s right. Remember the case we had a while back with a company that was scaling very rapidly in China?
Scott Harper: Right, I remember this one.
Pam Harper: Here was a case where so much was going on, and everything was important.
Scott Harper: They had huge financial objectives because they were just opening up in China, and it was viewed as a real opportunity. As we spoke with the person who brought us in, he said, “You know, we have all these goals and objectives, and everyone agrees that they’re all important.”
Pam Harper: “So, we’ve already done the prioritization. Now, you’re going to help us to figure out how to get this done.”
Scott Harper: Because it wasn’t happening.
Pam Harper: That’s right. In talking to people, we found that we could start triaging and taking a look at what really were the essential elements and what really was most important − where they were going to get the most return on investment, and where things were actually going as they should, and where they weren’t.
Scott Harper: The fact I remember about this was that although everyone said all of these objectives were important, because there wasn’t triage and a clear agreement and ranking among them, that one person was focusing on one thing that he saw as a very, very important but, in the big picture, wasn’t as important as something else. We helped them really even discover that things had changed so much that a couple of priorities that were on their list actually didn’t have to happen anymore.
Pam Harper: It was pretty remarkable. I should add, though, that perhaps some people will be saying, “Well, if they were communicating well enough, they would’ve figured all this out.” The fact is, they communicated frequently.
Scott Harper: Yeah, they talked a lot, but they didn’t necessarily communicate.
Pam Harper: A big distinction.
Scott Harper: We’ll go into that later.
Pam Harper: There are a few different elements that go into this issue of [going fast when it’s all important]. What’s most important is that there is something beyond prioritization that you have to do when everything is important.
Scott Harper: The bottom line for this story is that we helped them get together and make those distinctions − what’s going well, what really needs the most attention. They cut six months off of their objectives at a benefit of millions of dollars, and really were able to get back on track and move much, much quicker than they had been.
Pam Harper: They were able to do that in their case. Sometimes, however, you can’t just cut things off. Sometimes it’s a matter of reconciling, as it was for the company that we spoke about earlier. They did not cut anything off.
Scott Harper: Yeah. So let’s talk more about triage. What are the most essential elements for being able to triage among really important objectives and priorities?
Pam Harper: It comes down to your confidence that what should be happening is happening in reality and, number two, the relative return on investment. A lot of times, people can see what’s happening. The question is whether what should be happening is happening. In fact, the clearer the metrics are, then you have a better place to start. “Well, we should be at two million in revenues on this product by this date,” or five hundred million in revenues or whatever it is. “We’re at two million instead of five hundred million.”
Scott Harper: And if it’s not monetary, it’s, “We need to have this step done by this time so that these other things can happen.” When there are dependencies, when one thing can’t happen that’s important until another thing happens, you miss something, and the whole string of dominoes falls. The other thing is, you have to reconcile − even when everything is important, not everything has the same benefit to cost ratio, the same return on investment.
Pam Harper: Yeah. Notice, at this point, we’re only interested in looking at whether what should be happening, if we were on target, is happening. That’s all you’re focused on, at this point. We’ll get to the reasons why things are or are not happening later on.
Scott Harper: Now, the problem is that the higher up in an organization you are, especially if you’re the CEO, and it’s a larger mid marketer or larger organization, you have your ideas. “This should be happening. This is happening. This isn’t happening.” It’s hard to really know everything that’s going on, and it’s hard to really know where everybody in the organization is putting their focus.
Pam Harper: That’s true, and that’s where the power of the organization comes in as a source of intelligence. So often, people talk about the larger the organization gets, especially when you’re talking about a growing company, some people say, “Oh, you know, it was so much easier when it was entrepreneurial.”
Scott Harper: “The good old days…” Yeah.
Pam Harper: The more powerful your organization becomes as it gets larger, because you have additional sources of intelligence and perspective, people who are reaching out in all kinds of different areas. The purpose of these conversations is to reconcile what should be happening with what is happening.
Scott Harper: With a broad perspective.
Pam Harper: That’s right, so that you can begin to tackle what’s new. Even with this group of people that you’re going to be bringing in for a conversation, there are a lot of reasons why things do and do not happen, but this is a starting point. Triaging, to move fast enough when everything is important, ultimately comes down to collaborating with stakeholders who have unique perspectives on the issue, but there’s an art to doing this in a way that gives you the most value. That’s what we’ll talk about in our third segment after another quick break. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, on the web at BusinessAdvance.com.
Pam Harper: Does your company have what it takes to meet your current commitments and move fast enough to respond to new opportunities? Take the first step to confirm your perspective by requesting our free resource: “5 Questions To Ask When You Need to Move Even Faster.”
Scott Harper: Our questionnaire will help you find out where to begin to focus your energy and resources so what should be happening is really happening faster and more effectively.
Pam Harper: We’ve developed these questions based on our work with clients in over 30 industries. We’ve helped them scale faster, make innovation happen faster, and more quickly respond to new opportunities. This has generated millions of dollars in top and bottom line growth.
Now you can have this resource simply for sharing your valid contact information with us. We promise to keep it strictly confidential.
Scott Harper: So don’t miss out – Go today to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, and select episode 73. Scroll down to resources and click the link “download 5 Questions To Ask When You Need to Move Even Faster.” And to learn more about our success stories, go toGrowthIgnitersRadio.com BusinessAdvance.com/Client Results
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Today, Scott and I are talking about the key to moving fast enough when everything is important.
We spoke in the first segment about the importance of triaging, rather than simply prioritizing, and we also discussed in the second segment that you need more than just your own perspective to really triage effectively. A starting point is your perspective, but only way to really get at what’s going on and whether you can take of advantage of the emerging opportunities is to do this with collaboration.
Scott Harper: That’s an excellent point; so let’s get practical here. Let’s go to some really specific actionable steps that people can start to think about and actually do. If I’ve got a lot on my plate and I’m concerned, either that it may not happen fast enough or, “yeah, it’s happening now, but I don’t know how we’re going to take on anymore.” What’s the first step?
Pam Harper: The first step is to schedule a time to review your priorities. This seems basic, but it’s not. When everything is important, generally, your calendar is booked.
Scott Harper: Oh, gosh, yes.
Pam Harper: We have to make the commitment to ourselves, and I say it in the “we” because it’s that kind of …
Scott Harper: Yeah, we don’t always do it ourselves. It’s hard.
Pam Harper: It’s hard to do when you’re in your own system.
Scott Harper: So you have to make it a priority to look at your priorities.
Pam Harper: That’s right. You can do this anytime you believe that you’re not going fast enough, or when you’re concerned about it − but certainly during the periodic strategic reviews.
Scott Harper: Okay, sure.
Pam Harper: Think about it. We don’t do this once a year anymore. Most people, especially in companies that are scaling quickly, are doing this at least quarterly. Some, I know, are doing it monthly. I know people who bring in their key people once a week, and I’m talking about people that are far-flung. There are more executives, senior executives, boards that recognize the importance of scheduling this time to review your priorities.
Scott Harper: Sure. The more frequently you do it, the less daunting it is, because it doesn’t accumulate.
Pam Harper: Of course, as I said, reviewing the priorities is the very first step that people do. Now you focus in.
Scott Harper: So the first practical step is to schedule a time to really reconcile your important priorities.
Pam Harper: You schedule the time. The second thing within that, though, is to look at all the things that you’re putting in the important bucket. If you’ve got a lot of things that are important, now it’s time to triage.
Scott Harper: Yeah, and you need to include other people in doing it so you have the stronger perspective.
Pam Harper: That’s right. That’s the second point that we want to make − you have to identify the most important stakeholders to include in the discussion. And it’s not always the usual suspects, because a lot of companies are making more use out of partnering. We did a study on this, which we’ve made available, which is worth taking a look at if you haven’t already. We’ll put it under “Resources”. The point is that our strategic partners, other employees within the company, of course, and vendors. There’s so many different types of stakeholders that can be included in a conversation like this.
Scott Harper: Well, you’re absolutely right, and each one brings their own perspective so that you can fill in the blanks. You can also get a read on what they think is a top priority, because it’s all too easy for us and our stakeholders to get out of sync on what we truly believe is the most important, even if we’re talking a lot.
Pam Harper: You know, it’s interesting. I was just remembering one company where they were scaling very, very rapidly, and they were sure that because they communicated so often as a team, that they knew that all of the essential positions in the company were being covered in the right way, that their work chart actually matched what was happening in reality. But the fact was that it wasn’t − because their company had changed so quickly. They were communicating all the time, but it was one of those cases where they didn’t know what they didn’t know. That happens a lot, too − so we have to be able to have conversations where we’re willing to say, “This is what I know. This is what we don’t know.”
Scott Harper: And “who are we going to talk to so we can find out about it?”
Pam Harper: That’s right. That leads to a third point, which is deciding when it’s time to call in an outside advisor. There are a couple of ways you can decide. For example, if there’s a strong sense that there are a lot of “should/is gaps”- This should be happening, just like I was saying a moment ago, but it isn’t happening the way you think.
Scott Harper: Or the way you need it to.
Pam Harper: That’s one thing. And sometimes I’ve found that there are groups where there are tremendous numbers of elephants in the room, and there’s so many different types of elephants that it’s like an elephant buffet.
Scott Harper: That’s true.
Pam Harper: We all know that there’s something going on. We don’t want to talk about it because we’re concerned that if we do talk about it, that it will cause damage or a breakdown in communication. In fact, the group that we started out talking about that was growing in China − there were tremendous elephants in the room there. They were concerned about losing face. They were concerned about a lot of things-
Scott Harper: Looking bad. Yeah.
Pam Harper: That’s right. That happens in companies and organizations all over the world.
Scott Harper: The key is how do we create these conversations? Sometimes we can do it ourselves. Sometimes it really does help to bring in someone who’s really good at getting all of the perspectives out into the open.
Pam Harper: However you do it, it’s important to do it, and to do it frequently in an environment where we’re only going to see everything becoming more important. Whene have to move faster, we’re going to have to get good at this process of triaging.
So to sum it up, the more that you and your team have a laser focus on what should be happening, what is happening, and the potential ROI of these priorities, the faster we’ll be able to reconcile gaps. You’ll be able to put energy and resources where they’ll do the most good, and ultimately, take advantage of the emerging opportunities that are going to continue to come up.
Scott Harper: Thanks, Pam, and thanks to you out there for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To check out resources related to today’s conversation, read our bios, download resources for this episode, including Five Questions to Ask When You Need Your Company to Move Even Faster, go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, and select episode 73.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper…
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success, and leaving you with this question to discuss with your team:
Scott Harper: How confident are we that we’re really moving fast enough to make everything happen as it should and have the bandwidth left over to take on new opportunities?