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The Value of Priority: Your One Thing (#7-29-14) Newsletter #155

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Sep 1, 2014

If you’ve been following my blogs you know that I’ve dedicated several to the “Less is More” concept and specifically the book Essentialism.  Author Greg McKeown dives in to how so many of us continue to pursue more and believe we can have everything, ignoring the waste and dissatisfaction that this endless pursuit leads to.  In our Gazelles best practices we teach our customers to focus on a One Thing Priority for the year and quarter.  The word priority has changed in definition through the early 1900’s.  Let’s explore priority’s origin and the value of One Thing Priority can have in your business and life. priority stamp resized 600

The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular.

It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years. Only in the 1900s did it pluralize and with it the start of talking about priorities.  Illogically, did we reason that by changing the word we could bend reality? Somehow we would now be able to have multiple “first” things.

What has happened with the pluralization of priority?

Many things.  All lead to a lack of focus and clarity.

In fact Gazelles and I have been guilty of pluralizing the idea of priorities.

If you look at our One Page Strategic Plan you’ll see room for up to five rocks or priorities.

I won’t excuse this.  I will emphasize that with every customer I work with I maintain and have them commit to ONE THING being the priority for the quarter or year.  We place special emphasize on this, yet I can’t deny that when you begin to work on Quarterly Priorities and have more than three, many times by the time a quarterly review comes around, the leadership team has lost sight of what that One Thing is. 

Because of that we’ve began reminding the leadership team at the beginning of each weekly meeting what our One Thing is for the Quarter and the Year.  It may be as simple as placing the priority on the top of the document we record the weekly and monthly meeting on.  (Google Doc’s works great for this, particularly for having everyone insert their notes/discussions prior to the meeting time.)

The difference between having one priority and having several is dramatic.  While it’s still important to have a balancing priority, it might be better if we begin to call every other goal or target for the year and quarter something other than a priority. 

Having multiple priorities muddles the focus and clarity of your One Thing.  While we want and need to get more than One Thing done, in my experience achieving the One Thing always pulls multiple other efforts along with it at a much faster pace than having no priority at all. 

Please forgive me for referring again to my struggle with Leukemia; however it reveals an important facet of the word priority and the clarity and focus that having a simple One Thing mentality can provide.

I’m not the only one to have miraculously survived a fatal diagnosis of cancer.  Andy Grove of Intel certainly made discovering a remedy for his prostate cancer a priority when he discovered it in 1994. 

The urgency and immediacy of cancer provides a whole new meaning to the word clarity on what your priority is. 

You make clear concise decisions on what you should and should not be doing.  Once you determine the path to follow to eliminate or recover you never, and I do mean never steer from the path of activities that will resolve it.

Imagine if your leadership team, your entire business would have that same resolve to achieve its priority?

Here’s my suggestion for you and your business.  Ask yourself when you sit in your next planning meeting for either the year or quarter, will your people have the resolve to attack the priority you choose with the same determination and commitment that a patient facing a death sentence of cancer would?

Ask yourself whether or not the activities that you choose to support your priority are 90% or more on target of attaining that measurement?

Make sure your priority has a metric to measure and answer the following questions:


“How will we know when we have succeeded?”

Cancer is a pretty yes or no proposition.  Either you have it or you don’t.   In my case health and remission are still a top priority.   My two year anniversary of bone marrow transplant is coming September 5th.  Reaching that date will mean I will be in full remission.  That’s an accomplishment I’m proud of.

What event, what condition, what priority has your business approached with that amount of resolve?

Have you made something the “very first” ever in your organization?  Have you had that type of commitment, resolve and determination to achieve anything?

What’s the One Thing that would impact your business the most in the next quarter, year?

Do you believe you could achieve it if you had the type of commitment Andy Grove and I had to beat cancer?

Is it time you reversed your definition of priority and focused on One Thing?

For helping achieve the level of discipline required to achieve your Priority.  Contact Positioning Systems or one of the Gazelles Coaches at  

Topics: One Thing, Balanced Priorities, Business Priorities, priorities, priority

Quarterly Discipline: Hitting Your Target Late #136 12-25-12

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Wed, Dec 26, 2012

Each quarter my clients exercise the discipline of quarterly planning meetings. For someone who has never undergone this required discipline that Gazelles Coaches and Positioning Systems practices it’s difficult to appreciate how much can be accomplished in a short amount of time.

In this newsletter I provide the 3rd of three quarterly examples of what three of my client’s achieved in the third quarter by investing in a day or more on quarterly planning. To produce results in 2013 you need to make quarterly plans and most importantly dedicate a day or two to annual planning by the end of the year. This is the third of three newsletters to offer how my clients achieved success and most importantly realized their One Thing for the quarter.

This month’s example is from the contracting field, a service company that offers concrete moisture testing for new construction and remodeling businesses. Their third quarter One Thing was Delivering Projects To Clients On Time and as Promised. This is a productivity measure and they balanced this with developing a system for Employee Performance Reward Tracking. Remember you need to balance your One Thing with a critical number that counterbalances your Productivity Driver with a Relationship Driver. The Employee Performance Reward Tracking offered employees an opportunity to be rewarded for their service and efforts and recognize their contributions.

Delivering projects on time as promised for this quarter would be no small achievement. While my client had an exceptional record of getting their reports to their clients on time, this quarter their largest client provided them with a moved up agenda of new stores to conduct their moisture testing on. If they achieved the targets they set it would result in record quarterly revenue.

The company set their targets ahead of the guaranteed time frames they promised their customers. This assured they under promised and over delivered. It also would allow them to protect themselves from circumstances beyond their control, including weather and the unpredictability of outsourced technicians.

As the quarter progressed the demand on operations to meet the unexpected but anticipated capacity of work expanded. Teams were working harder, more efficient and in better communication than ever before. The leader of this group was down in the trenches working more tactically than strategically to ensure he and his team met their target dates.

Several obstacles arose during the quarter that interfered with reaching the deadline. One of the programs they were using to build reports for their clients crashed delaying data gathering and reporting for about a week. Internally the team failed to use support staff to help them complete their projects, losing an opportunity to delegate and speed up their completion time. Several of the projects required additional clarification. Rather than working on these as they arrived, the list grew to more than 50 projects. Even as they attacked these, new projects were added, creating a bottleneck in reporting.

Additionally my clients outside source, technicians used for gathering the data from the customers’ sites, needed to be managed better. Technical writers should have called the technicians on all projects that needed clarification. Passing projects between Tech writer and Project Manager’s proved to be inefficient.

Finally an unforeseen opportunity for training came up during the final week of the goal. This took two of my client’s most productive operational people (including the manager) out of production at the most critical time.

Even while all this is occurring, in our monthly meetings when dashboards are updated the leadership team member accountable for hitting this target maintained assurance his team would hit the target. In retrospect he was overly optimistic. He recognizes his own failure to realize the complexity of the issues that held his team back. His failed to report this to the leadership team and ask for a short extension. Based on the progress they were making and despite not getting the reports all completed to clients, it’s likely he and his team would have been given a reprieve on their target for reports being complete.

Why would the leadership team extend the deadlines? Simply look at the numbers.

Record projects billed and reported. Targets hit for billing clients and record sales for a month and for any quarter in the company’s history.

Had they been given an additional week or two to complete the reporting portion of their priority they most likely would have achieved their targets.

The perplexing result was despite record projects completed and revenue achieved they failed to hit the ultimate priority, “Delivering Projects To Clients On Time and as Promised.” This is by their own definition of what the target meant.

To his credit, the leader of the team recognized his accountability. He noted that at the very least he should have not been so optimistic, and informed the leadership team of the issues beyond control. He should have asked for an extension. He learned a valuable lesson in how to manage.

The owner truly wanted to give the full bonus to his people, yet realized in doing so it could set up a poor precedent for future themes. How likely would future deadlines be perceived in a reward situation like this?

After a meeting with the operations leadership team in which they accepted responsibility for failing to hit their targets, the leadership team met to discuss options. It was decided that the bonuses wouldn’t be awarded since the targets had been missed. (Keep in mind this bonus would be unprecedented in the company’s history since they’d just started conducting themes this year.) The owner wished to ensure the efforts of his team didn’t go unrecognized however. It was agreed that when all the reports were completed a celebration at a local restaurant would be held immediately after work. The owner additionally handed out sizable checks to each operations member (albeit the amount substantially less than the bonuses they would have earned) to thank them personally for the extra hours and increased efficiency they’d displayed.

What might you have done in this situation? Would you be able to rely on the collective intelligence of your leadership team to help you do the right thing?

The owners course of action I feel is correct. Targets that are elastic are not targets at all unless there is agreement on why they should be changed. At the same time it’s important to recognize and applaud your people when they extend extra effort to achieve a goal.

The owner intends to recognize their efforts again in the company’s annual year-end bonus program.

Making plans for 2013? It’s not too late. Michael Gerber noted that, “Businesses that plan always do better than businesses that don’t. But business that change their plans are always more successful than businesses that plan but don’t change them.” That’s why it’s important to recognize an annual meeting is only the first of your meeting rhythm disciplines required to achieve your company’s 2013 priorities.

If it requires you to strategize and plan in January it’s better than having no plan. Give your team the clarity, alignment and cohesiveness they need to make 2013 your best. Need help? Contact us or ask for a Needs Assessment to schedule a meeting with one of our coaches/consultants.


Topics: quarterly meetings, Annual Plan, Balanced Priorities, Process/Productivity Drivers, People/Relationship Drivers


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