Volume 11 Number 4 - April 9, 2013


If you know a company — customer, supplier, friend, or your own — that could benefit
from improved operations, let us know.
Your best interest is our best interest.

The Finish Strong® monthly e-newsletter is for business leaders who recognize Operations as a strategic function that creates competitive advantage, profitability and brand loyalty to the marketplace.

These brief articles, list of events, and amended quote will make you think.
Go ahead: test us


Shoeless Joe Jackson betrayed the baseball world by participating in the famed "Black Sox Scandal" in the 1919 World Series. This great baseball player let the other team win. Throwing the series was such egregious behavior and of historical import that I grew up thinking no one in baseball would ever cheat again. Sosa, McGuire, Charlie Hustle. SMU and Miami college football. Lance Armstrong. In sports of all kinds, it's getting easier to presume duplicity than honest talent.

Jeff Skilling, Dennis Kozlowski and Bernie Madoff may be the poster boys for unethical businessmen, but there are plenty more where they came from. In many cases, look for the "too good to be true" headlines and as Watergate's Deep Throat said, "follow the money."

Though the behaviors seems pervasive, cheating and fraud are less likely to stop your company in its tracks than is simple lack of focus.

The March 19, 2013 Wall Street Journal (in an article about the NCAA March Madness tournament; we CAN learn everywhere we look!) reported on page D7: "When we make decisions, we have a tendency to get lost in the "muck" and get distracted from our core priorities. An MIT study found that a group of managers had no trouble identifying the top problems they were facing at work; a follow-up question revealed that none of them had spent a single minute in the previous week trying to solve those problems."

Your team is likely honest, hard-working and committed. But it may also be working on the wrong things despite knowing the priorities of the company. Before your company begins to swirl down the drain and you wonder how that could happen, have the discipline to regularly verify the key areas of actual work. None of us wants to gasp "say it ain't so, Joe" when discovering the object of Joe's focus.


The dictionary definition of priority: "something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives."

Just how many priorities can your people successfully address at any one time? And how do you know that what is given attention is what merits attention before competing alternatives?

Leaders have responsibility for positioning their people for success. That requires making the critical choices, i.e., establishing priorities. By limiting the range of decisions that others can make, it becomes increasingly likely that good decisions are made and alignment created.

Giving your team a laundry list to work on shifts responsibility to choose sequence and dilutes the importance of everything on the list. If there are no bad decisions that can be made with your list, you simply need to ensure regular progress. If instead you find they are working on the wrong priorities, perhaps the bill of fare approach is really Catch-22.

And, no, establishing priorities and ensuring they are the focus of engagement is not micro-managing. This is ensuring common criteria for decision-making whenever a decision matters, for knowing what merits attention first, and reinforcing that message regularly. That is real leadership, not Colonel Cathcart leadership.


The Starting Pistol
Mahatma Gandhi:
"Action expresses priorities."

The Tape
Rebecca Morgan:
"Saying one thing but doing another only serves to confuse those you aspire to lead."


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