How to Shift Your Strategic Focus
Market and organizational changes can require you to shift your strategic focus. Being explicit about the details of the shift will help you and your team adjust to these changes.
Market and organizational changes can require you to shift your focus. This can mean temporarily pausing some work to accelerate or add new projects. Remember that your team’s time and energy is a fixed asset. Shifting focus doesn’t mean adding new things to focus on. Unless you add resources, you have to make trade-offs on where people spend their time. This enables you to complete more projects faster because your team is focused on them. During a shift in focus, draft a plan and communicate it. This plan should include:
- What’s causing us to shift focus?
- What’s our desired outcome once we get through the change?
- What’s our strategy for navigating the change?
- What old work will we stop doing to free up resources?
- What new work will we be focusing on?
When I worked at a financial services firm, we had a major event that caused us to shift focus. The regulators came in and took a look at our processes. They didn’t like what they saw. They said we needed to rectify a whole list of issues. We put together and communicated a plan. What was causing us to shift focus? The regulators identified these 10 issues. What’s our desired outcome once we get through it? Well, those issues are resolved to the satisfaction of the regulators. What’s our strategy for navigating the change? Well, we’re going to stop doing some of our technology projects and move all our resources to the regulatory issues. What old work were we going to stop? Well, here are the five projects that are now on hold. What new work will we be focusing on? Here are the 10 ideas, and here’s how we’re going to allocate resources against them.
By being explicit about the shift and moving the resources to it, we got through those regulatory issues pretty quickly. When we finished, we picked up the technology projects and moved forward. If you shift focus without communicating the new end state and explicitly saying what work is in or out of focus, you risk people taking on new work but not feeling like they can stop doing the old work to take on the new. You risk burning out the team. When you have one these major shifts, be deliberate about putting a plan in place and communicating it to the organization.
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