“Sometimes our stop-doing list needs to be bigger than our to-do list.”–Patti Digh
Fresh out of a department head meeting your head is spinning. This was the rare brainstorming session that set you on fire with ten solid initiatives that would dramatically improve your operations. You fly back to your desk and go back over your meeting notes to start the planning process. Halfway through the list, like a cream pie in the face, you are slapped with the brutal reality. All the ideas are gold and require working with other departments, but all ten initiatives aren’t feasible. You might be able to pull off two of the ideas, and you’re going to have to cast eight potential diamonds in the trash can.
You’ve been placed in the unenviable position of saying no. In this situation, no is not a word that crosses our lips. We’re the hard chargers who never say die of the business world, so there must be a way, right? No, there’s not. There comes a time when possibilities are infinite enough you must make a choice not to do all the good things for your business you can. You must pick the best things for your business. Steve Jobs was faced with this conundrum when he returned to Apple in 1997. At the time, Apple’s product offerings were nearing the point of unmanageability. Jobs wanted to focus the company’s attention on four products—a portable and desktop product for the consumer and professional markets. To achieve that goal, Steve Jobs had to say a lot of nos. That’s what good leaders do. They triage. They prioritize. They say, “no,” when saying “yes” would be a lot easier and certainly more palatable.
We must abandon the belief that saying no means giving up. Saying no when prioritizing is a tool, not an excuse. Somewhere in the process there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth, but the prudent use of the word no will save greater heartache in the future. And, it just might enable the “yes” that changes the world.
Ruthless Prioritization: Accelerators
- What are all of the potential “yesses” you’re being faced with currently?
- How many of those do you really have the resources and bandwidth to tackle right now?
- Which of those projects or initiatives have the greatest potential for positive impact and which ones must you say “no” to, for now?
Dr. Jeff D. Standridge is the best-selling author of “The Innovator’s Field Guide” and “The Top Performer’s Field Guide.” He serves as Managing Director for the Conductor and Innovation Junkie, and teaches in the College of Business at the University of Central Arkansas. Jeff helps organizations and their leaders generate sustained results in the areas of innovation, strategy, profit growth, organizational effectiveness and leadership. Learn more at InnovationJunkie.com.