Monday, December 31, 2012

Beware of Shiny Objects!

Adam Bryant interviewed Sandra Kurtzig, CEO of software management firm Kenandy, in a recent Corner Office column for the New York Times.  Kenandy offers some great advice for leaders regarding the need to stay focused despite some dazzling and attractive distractions that sometimes appear.   Here's an excerpt:

I don’t run after “shiny objects.” That’s a mistake that a lot of people make in running a company, especially in starting one. They tend to get a lot of opportunities from people who want to partner with them. And these are just shiny objects, because there are very few partners that end up being right for your company. So I’m much more selective. If I hear something, I’m very quick to think, ‘Hey, that’s a shiny object; let’s get back to work.’ I think that’s what’s so distracting to a lot of companies — they see a big customer or some other distraction, and they spend too much time on it and they lose their way. 

I agree wholeheartedly.  Leaders get approached all the time with interesting proposals both from potential external partners as well as from internal folks.   They see opportunities for new investments and initiatives emerging all the time.  Opportunities abound in many cases.  The question is how to screen those opportunities and put scarce resources to work on a few key priorities.  The scarcest resource often is not financial capital; it's management time and attention.   Top leaders simply can't focus on a laundry list of new initiatives.  Leaders also can't forget that execution on current initiatives will likely suffer if they turn their attention to new pastures too quickly.   Strong execution requires discipline not just from the troops, but from top leaders as well.    

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