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Too Many Business Goals Is a Very Bad Thing

Written by Jeff Whittle on October 31, 2016

Goals

closeup of large hamburger with many toppings | too many business goalsAre you drowning in a sea of undone to-dos and action items you haven't acted on? Do you have a list of 50 unprioritized goals to accomplish by some unspecified date and another 100 things that you just might get around to one of these days? Are you surrounded by sticky notes and find yourself bouncing from one half-done task to another?

Well, then, I can confidently predict the future. Most of those goals, action items, and ideas aren't going to get dealt with. They won’t get scratched off your list, and they will add to a continuing mountain of stressors that eventually keep you up at night and ruin most of your days before they’ve even started.

Is Your Company Suffering from Goal Gluttony?

You, my friend, have taken a trip through what I like to call the “Goal Buffet,” and your eyes were much, much larger than your stomach. As a result, you now have a plate of goals piled so high that you certainly can't eat all of them, and in trying to do so you will almost certainly be unhappy with the result.

For what it’s worth, you’re in good company. To paraphrase the great Jim Collins, most great businesses don't die of starvation...they die from indigestion.

We're often called in to help businesses that find themselves paralyzed by this goal-overload indigestion. Things aren't getting done. People aren't effective. Deadlines aren't achieved. Companies feel stuck. And while it may seem counterintuitive, we almost always start with the same prescription.

Simplicity.

Dumb Down Your Business Goals

Welcome to the very first leadership skill we introduce when we’re helping companies implement the Entrepreneurial Operating System (“EOS”). When teams are stuck, nearly every time they are reeling from the organizational paralysis that is the predictable by-product of complexity. The cure? Simplicity. Clarity. Dumb it down.

Yes, I’m serious.

Simplicity is the antidote to complexity, and it isn’t easy to achieve. When you find yourself drowning in a plate of unachieved goals, remember the truism attributed to Albert Einstein – if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

I can promise that your business will never, ever suffer from a lack of things to be done. What it will suffer from, however, is a lack of focus and execution on the very critical few things that – if achieved – will have the biggest impact on your business. Identifying those critical few things, and then staying focused on their achievement, is the difference between great companies and floundering ones.

Here’s the key question: can you (and everyone else on your team) simply state the 3-5 most important things that you must achieve this quarter? If you can’t, you’re carrying around that plate of goals and action items that almost certainly will not get achieved for the simple reason that there are too many of them for any of them to be true priorities. Until you simplify the goals of any period down to a critical few, you will remain stuck, your tires helplessly spinning in the muck of business complexity.

Next Steps

Get the EOS Vision/Traction Organizer

This article originally appeared on the Whittle & Partners blog on September 20, 2016.


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