If you want to execute a strategy, you want to keep cool and move inexorably forward, and if you think you do have a clear strategy, the first urgent thing to do is to list your distractions.
List them all including the obvious ones, the small ‘just a little deviation but I will get back on track’, the ‘surely we can’t dismiss that topic’, the off track, off tangent, the incredibly interesting ones, the fascinating collateral angles, the ones that need to be dealt with before X,Y,Z and anything else.
Have a Big White Board, or a big digital doc, or both, and label it ‘Distractions’, big letters, and have them in front of your eyes all the time. Look at that board at least once daily. Add as you go along.
If somebody in your team thinks something is not a distraction, but you think it is, it should be dealt with, you’d better have that conversation, pronto.
Be ruthless. Rule out compromises such as the ‘also important’. If it is important it should be in the strategy. The ‘also’ is nothing but a red flag. There is no ‘also’ important in Strategy. If in the box, it’s important, the ‘also’ is redundant. If not in the box, it’s neither important nor ‘also’.
When Barack Obama was caught in the controversy surrounding his pastor and preacher Rev Wright, the famous ‘God Damn America, he tackled that ‘distraction’ (dominating national news) this way:
‘We can play Reverend Wright’s sermon on every channel, every day, and talk about until the election… We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hilary supporter as evidence that she is playing the race card, on we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain. We can do that. But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we will be talking about some other distraction. And another one. And then another one. And then nothing will change’
And then nothing will change is our equivalent of nothing will be properly executed, or we will fool ourselves.
Obama’s reaction is a good lesson on distractions. He stopped all crap at that point.
Political strategy here, ours is business strategy.
Incidentally, that Big White Board of Distractions can be revisited any time and something could become a non-distraction. But, if going that way, make sure yon have a very good reason and all the Critical Thinking seasoning you can master.
Rule of thumb, if it is on the Board of Distractions, it is. If debatable, what a wonderful distraction.
Believe me, if in doubt, leave on the Board.
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