18/07/2011

By Phil Olley

An optician prescribes varifocal lenses to support vision and focus defects at different ranges, both long and short. And in business, leaders and business owners need to focus both on the long-term and short-term simultaneously.

If one merely focuses on the long-term, nothing seems to get done and idle daydreaming can become the order of the day, living in the future, but missing what’s happening right now. Conversely, if we focus only on the short term, without regard for the longer term objectives, it’s like being on a hamsters’ wheel.

Of course, the answer is to focus simultaneously on both. You need to know where you are going long term and be focused on the “here and now” to avoid accidents and take opportunities. Focus is a skill that needs regular honing. It’s rather like when you are driving a car, you know where you are driving to, your destination. Yes. And in reality, you don’t need to actively FOCUS on it, just know what it is. But you do need to focus on the road you are on. You need to be able to see what’s happening far ahead of you, and you also need to be aware of what’s happening right around you. Is that pedestrian about to cross the road, and what about that dog on a lead just ten yards away? And what’s happening at that junction 50 yards ahead.

If we were about to start out on a mountaineering expedition, the first question you would ask me is “which mountain are we going to climb, Phil?” The answer would inform your decision making and planning for the expedition, the level of fitness and training required, and the logistics involved in terms of supplies and materials required to launch from base camp to the summit.

In business, that’s the way we should also plan the adventure… starting with deciding the destination, the Vision, and then working back allowing that goal to inform our plan, and our week-by-week decisions.

Back to the driving analogy where it’s our ability to know the destination, the preferred route, and be switching our focus back to the immediate road conditions and driving, in the moment, that ensures a safe journey, arriving where you want to, when you want to. In business it’s the same. You need to know your destination: the vision you are aiming for, and your strategic goals. And you need to be aware of what is happening this quarter, this month, this week, today, and right now in the moment.

Rather like when you are driving, you need to notice the signs to your destination, you need to know the route, you need to plan the journey, but if you spend all your time looking at the map and not looking up, at the road you are driving along, you will never get there safely! You also need to take account of the road conditions, the traffic, any sudden changes to your plan, and adjust your journey constantly. And while you are driving, you need to be able to keep adjusting that focus from 10 yards, to 50 yards, to 100 yards, even further ahead on occasion.

Business focus is about adjusting between your Strategic, Tactical and Operational Focus at all times. It should be almost instinctive, and this is only made possible by knowing where you are going — your Vision/ destination. At times on the journey, you need to take a step back and look at where you are in relation to the outline plan, the same as you would check the map on long journeys, or mountain expeditions.

The strategy is an outline plan, not a straight-jacket, and is a means of merely measuring progress to the destination.
Of course, just as when you are driving, you cannot and should not attempt to focus on all at the same time. And in business it’s the same. This ability to switch focus very quickly from long term to short term, from 1000 yards ahead to 10 yards ahead, from 3 year goals to quarterly goals, to weekly goals to daily goals is a skill worth mastering.

It’s also one of the key factors in determining the outlook for an owner-managed business — where is the owner’s focus? Over the past few months, even the past couple of years, perhaps understandably, the focus has been very short term in most businesses and organisations, large and small. But now, I get the impression, people are starting to look up, to view the whole map of campaign...I hope I’m right. Business depends on Vari-focus.

Phil Olley is a leading specialist in focus, peak performance and business breakthroughs. He is author of Counting Chickens, the NEXUS principles to personal and professional development. To find out more visit www.PhilOlley.com or email info@PhilOlley.com


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