We live in a complex world. We are being bombarded by new information, trends, initiatives, strategies, and the list grows. We are supposed to change while keeping everything stable. We are supposed to accelerate while not getting too far ahead of ourselves. We are challenged to do more while keeping resources at a similar level. It is enough to drive us crazy and get us off track from making real progress forward.
During these times, more than ever, we need to focus on the fundamentals. For leaders, this may relate to adopting and grabbing onto a simple principle: Doing the Right Things Right. This principle adds some balance to an imbalanced world that needs our leadership and focus. This is not a new principle, but it may be time to dust off tried-and-true notions to guide us in our spinning world.
We talk about this concept in two ways. First, we talk about doing the right things, which translates into aligning our objectives with an overall strategy, plan, or direction of an organization or team. Second, we talk about doing things right, which translates to delivering quality work in whatever we do.
Putting these two together — doing the right things and doing things right — creates a powerful way to think about our actions and our work. It comes down to what we do and how we do it; both are indispensable to moving forward with initiatives in a productive, positive, and purposeful manner. It is like the middle of an Oreo® cookie, bringing together two sides in a meaningful, satisfying way!
We need to think about our work using the following framework and determine ways to stay in the upper right quadrant as much as possible on any given day, week, month, and year.
Let’s break this down further.
Doing Right Things. How do you know you are doing the right things? Part of the answer could be based on the activities outlined in a strategic or project plan; part of the answer could be based on how the activities are aligned with the defined objectives; and part of the answer could be whether or not the work is advancing the strategies and goals outlined by your team or organization.
A simple test:
- Do you know who the customer is for the work you are doing?
- Do you know your customer’s current requirements?
As a sanity check, one further test:
- Do you own the customer relationship for which the work is being done?
- If not, why are you involved? Can you delegate or shift the work to the person who does the own the relationship?
There are so many things to balance, so let’s be sure we are always focused on the right things. It is also about ensuring others are embracing their responsibilities and are being held accountable for moving their deliverables forward.
No one can afford to waste time, get distracted by unimportant tasks, or do activities someone else should be doing. Additionally, things can change quickly, so we need to stay current with the expectations and the required work.
Knowing and understanding your customer requirements facilitates doing the right things. Keeping current on the strategic and tactical requirements ensures you are not stale on the activities that need to be done. We must be constantly aligned with the mission and our customer’s current requirements.
Doing Things Right. Quality means everything. Just think about it, do any of these sound fulfilling?
- Half done work
- Incorrectly done work
- Disappointing metrics
- Dissatisfied customers
No one wants to have their work described in any of those ways. We want to be proud of how we do our work and the end results we achieve. In doing high quality work, a simple way to determine how well we are doing is by answering this question:
Do we consistently meet the agreed-upon customer requirements?
Any project or initiative contains links between individuals and tasks. Most of the work we do feeds into the work or expectations of another. To ensure we are doing things right, we need to deliver to at least our customer’s requirements, if not more. Meeting requirements is solid; exceeding them is exceptional and energizing.
Bringing It Together. There are many ways to approach our daily work. While using the simple matrix above reinforces many of those seven principles, it also provides a great framework in which to adjust our mindset and focus our work.
Here is an opportunity to focus on how well you are doing with your projects.
- Draw a two-by-two matrix, just like the above one
- Write in your primary activities for the past few days, dividing them between each of the four quadrants
- Think about how you can stop doing certain activities and move others to their rightful place
- Determine ways to stay current with the customer(s) of your initiatives and activities and ensure you understand their requirements
- Plan your day and week around doing the right things in the right way
We are all spinning in today’s whirlwind world. There is so much to balance and much more to accomplish. We need to work smartly and in the right direction, ensuring we are doing the right things right in most all of the things we do.