Five Questions for Tumultuous Times

Posted 09.26.2008

Wow, what a week this has been.  As the headlines shifted by the hour (or even within the hour), I found myself making some conscious choices to quit paying attention to the externalities and focus on what really required my time and attention.  It’s easy to get distracted when the volume is turned up so loud.

Spinal tap  In working with leaders over the years, I’ve noticed that a couple of things happen when, as the guys in Spinal Tap (right) would say, the amps get turned up to 11.  The first is that it’s easy to start thinking that the current situation is exactly how things are going to be forever.  That’s pretty understandable when the news cycle is in 24/7 crisis mode.  (For a quick fix on the long view, check out this post from Rich Karlgaard of Forbes.com.)

The second thing I’ve noticed about tumultuous times is that leaders can lose their focus.  When it gets crazy out there it’s tempting to start throwing a lot of stuff against the wall in the hopes that something will stick.  The original plan gets thrown out the window.  Someone once said that strategy is as much about what you’re not going to do as what you’re going to do.  In other words, focus.

Peter Drucker I’d say that the all-time oracle of focus was the late, great Peter Drucker (left).  The folks at the 800-CEO-READ blog recently highlighted a new book, The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization, based on Drucker’s thinking.  As a very quick summary, here are the five questions that Drucker would ask you to consider as you focus in your strategy for tumultuous times:

  1. What is our mission? 
  2. Who is our customer?
  3.  What does the customer value? 
  4. What are our results? 
  5. What is our plan?

Feeling a little scattered?  If you are, so is your team.  Why not pull them together within the week to ask and answer Drucker’s five questions? They’re guaranteed to bring back your focus.