We know that many executive teams find it difficult to find a focus area for action in their survey results. As you work with your executives to help them find focus in the results, here are some arguments for finding focus that you may find helpful when discussing with your leaders.
- When we attempt to change or tackle several things at once, it can be tough to evaluate the direct impact of our actions in terms of what worked and what didn’t.
- Attempting to take action on several things at once often leads to a sense of 'analysis paralysis' in trying to determine which handful of issues are best to dive into - oftentimes, the energy spent deciding on which things to focus on could have been spent actually doing one of the very things under consideration.
- One of the fundamentals to creating successful change is to have organizational alignment on initiatives, and aligning on one initiative is easier for leaders and employees to digest than biting off a bunch of initiatives at once.
- Communication efforts can be directed more effectively around one effort, than around multiple focus areas, making transparency to employees about “what’s being done” much clearer.
- Finding focus and taking action do not often achieve a 1:1 relationship, rather, more often than not one focus area can result in many actions across the organization. Choosing many focus areas at once results in a multitude of associated actions which often can result in lack of priority and nothing getting done.
- Focusing on one thing requires half the effort of focusing on two things.
- Organizational change is hard! People have a tendency to continually set themselves up for impossible lists of things to tackle? If you think you can change something easily why not work on that and when it is fixed move onto the next thing?
- Oftentimes, other levels in the organization have decided to focus on something else as well. If every group finds three things to focus on we’ll quickly have an extreme lack of focus across the organization. Having people rally around a singular focus is less overwhelming and more empowering. And even one focus will lead to multiple actions and ideas to sift through.
And here are some responses to common rebuttals for focusing on one thing…
- "But our results clearly point to these 5 issues as being problematic, and I want to address all of them!" Good - it’s a great start to recognise where you have opportunities to create more positive work experiences and then be motivated to act. Choose one focus area now and track how you’re doing on it. When you are ready, or employees have given the signal that things are going well, move on to a second focus area. Employees will appreciate experiencing even one thing getting some attention. You can also communicate that this focus doesn’t mean other things are not important - just that you want to give each thing it’s due level of attention.
- "If we focus on more than one thing we have a better chance of doing something because even if we fail at one or two we will still be progressing on the other thing(s). If we select just one focus and fail we won’t have done anything." If you try to do something and you fail, you have still tried to do something. By focusing your attention and energy on the one thing you care about you are able to learn quickly, fail fast, make adjustments and either try a new action to address the focus area or turn your attention to one of your other focus areas. By focusing on one thing you give your organization a chance to iterate and learn much more quickly. Failing is a constructive part of learning.
- "We have lots of capable folks at this organization who can each own a different focus area...maximizing our impact." Lots of moving pieces makes it tough for leaders, managers, and employees throughout the organization to align behind any change initiatives. It is perfectly reasonable to share results throughout the organization as a means to empower all members to become a possible change agent. It is equally important to ensure everyone knows where the organization is going to focus (initially) so they can appropriately rally behind and support efforts.
Culture Amp is currently developing technology to facilitate finding focus within our platform. See our article on our Focus Agent for more detail.