A constant deluge of information and competing priorities tempts people and organisations to take on too much. They get stretched thin, with rising stress, declining quality of work and less impact.
People start feeling overworked yet under-utilised, busy yet not productive, and that their time is being hijacked by other people’s agendas.
Much has been written on how to prioritise, lead and govern organisations to deal with this widespread problem. There’s clearly more to it than meets the eye.
One of the causes is paying too much attention to the loudest voices. Different people demanding that their issue should be your priority is normal. However, what’s changed is that many individuals and groups are mastering the digital tools of today as new avenues for organising and agitating to escalate their interests.
A cacophony of noise is assaulting modern leaders and organisations from all directions. How they choose to respond is what separates the best from the mediocre.
Some leaders want to be liked and try to appease everyone. They agree to take on more or allocate resources to lots of small projects with different groups.
Others are more discerning. Instead of choosing to do more with less, they lean into doing less, but better.
The curious thing, is that most people know that for an organisation to get tangible results, it must narrow its activities and focus in a few areas that matter most. People are instinctively suspicious about organisations that seek to be all things to all people.
Those leaders that are always pruning activities, pushing back on loud voices in a purposeful way and concentrating resources in areas vital to their strategy, are more likely to perform and earn respect.
It takes a lot of discipline to define what’s most important and then stick to it while faced with a procession of people shouting loudly. Still, choosing performance ahead of popularity is going to be a safer bet in the long run.