Prioritization: How doing less often delivers more

Battleship = (a) stay afloat (b) stay afloat  (c) stay afloat

Battleship Duty = (a) stay afloat (b) stay afloat (c) stay afloat

I recently spoke to a senior banking executive. He wasn’t bored. Among a plethora of tasks faced, he was looking at ways to re-engage with staff, re-structure the organization, figure out how to make hundreds of people redundant with dignity while, at the same time, developing better internal risk management processes.  Phew! I was tired just listening to his agenda.

Work Longer: When senior executives are faced with an overwhelming agenda, what do they do? Well, it depends. In a business that is growing they have the option of hiring more staff or using consultants as an extra pair of hands to ‘shore up the ship’. But, in a loss making business, they are usually constrained. There’s often no money and even less tolerance for additional spending. This can be coupled with a negative vibe (“you got us into this mess, so figure the way out”). Faced with the above, most executives work harder. Punch in longer hours. Attend more meetings. Get stuck into the detail and lead from the front. Despite the best intentions, it’s usually a mistake.

The Battleship: In the military world a battleship is for the protection of other ships.  Now, the first 3 duties of a battleship are (a) To stay afloat (b) To stay afloat and (c) To stay afloat. If you are not afloat yourself, you cannot protect anyone else. When you are ‘running on empty’, you become cranky, half-listening, joyless. You become a long hours machine (measuring inputs) and stop being an effective executive (producing outputs).

Top 3: You need to prioritize. Call a halt to your Mother Teresa impersonation (a bit non PC – but very descriptive – John Randles uses the phrase: ‘get down off the crucifix’). Identify the top 3 or 4 critical tasks. Stay focused on these – like a bee tracking the scent of a flower. And don’t try to satisfy other people’s needs in the organization while you are doing this. People own their own happiness. Your job is to stabilise the organization and, in the words of Tom Peters, ‘keep the herd moving roughly west’. Prioritisation delivers results. Try it.


PS:Lighter Note (from Larry McGivern)

To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II…..

In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. (look up ‘revocation’ in the Oxford English Dictionary).

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except North Dakota, which she does not fancy). Your new Prime Minister, David Cameron, will appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed. To aid in the transition to a British Crown dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. The letter ‘U’ will be reinstated in words such as ‘colour,’ ‘favour,’ ‘labour’ and ‘neighbour.’ Likewise, you will learn to spell ‘doughnut’ without skipping half the letters, and the suffix ‘-ize’ will be replaced by the suffix ‘-ise.’ Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels (look up ‘vocabulary’).

  1. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as ”like’ and ‘you know’ is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as U.S. English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter ‘u” and the elimination of ‘-ize.’

3. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

  1. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you’re not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can’t sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you’re not ready to shoot grouse.
  1. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left side with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.
  1. The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) of roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.

7.  You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.

  1. The cold, tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable, as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of the British Commonwealth – see what it did for them. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat’s Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.

9. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie Macdowell attempt English dialect in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one’s ears removed with a cheese grater.

10.You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies).

  1. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.
  1. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty’s Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).

God Save the Queen!

PS: Only share this with friends who have a good sense of humour (NOT humor)!

 Check our website or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organization development.



About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
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