Prioritization – Looking Back, Letting Go, and Moving Forward

As I was readying for a new year of blog posts, I looked back to past articles and decided to expand on a prioritization theme that I touched on as the calendar moved from 2017 to 2018.

With two more years perspective, I am increasingly convinced that the proliferation of choice (for consumers and business leaders) makes prioritization one of the most important elements of personal and business success.

Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize

Many of us will begin 2020 with a long list of new strategic priorities. We’ll identify six, seven, or more new projects to add to business objectives that carried over from 2019. All these new initiatives may be relevant to future success, but few will likely garner widespread buy-in and effective execution.

From my vantage point, the art of business success is to identify key business objectives and execute against them flawlessly. All too often, companies drift in what I call shiny ball syndrome.

Lessons from Mr. Buffett

Having consulted for a couple of Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries, I have long been a follower of the concise and transformational business wisdom of Warren Buffett. On the topic of business focus, Warren Buffett is quoted by Scott Dinsmore as using a 5 step process for prioritizing true success:

1) Know what you want – List your top 25

2) Pick your top 5

3) Plan for your top 5

4 ) Marry your top priorities

5) Know your “avoid at all costs list” and stick to it

Give Up Something

Forgive me for thinking I can add to the insights of the Oracle of Omaha, but I would append one item to Mr. Buffett’s list. Specifically, I encourage my clients to give up things that will not enable them to achieve their “top 5” business priorities.

That means while other leaders are making a bevy of new plans for a new year, I challenge you to play a zero-sum game. For each new priority, I ask you to identify something you are willing to  let go of or some new-found set of  resources you can access so that your new priorities can be fully achieved.

The notion of letting go of something to achieve something else is counterintuitive for many people. However, my experience with CEOs at companies like Mercedes-Benz and The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company demonstrates the importance of not only looking for what you wish to add in 2020 but also what you will subtract to make those additions possible.

Sharing the Vision

While working with Steve Cannon, then CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA (that work is captured in my book Driven to Delight), I saw the power of declaring a manageable set of transformational leadership objectives – one of which involved being a world-class customer experience provider (not just best in automotive, but best across all businesses who interact directly with customers).

Not only did Steve stay on message concerning the overriding importance of customer experience differentiation, but he also boldly stated that customer experience at Mercedes-Benz would be HIS #1 priority and HIS desired legacy. To that end, Steve spoke about customer experience prioritization and captured his vision of that journey in a visual map:

The Dump Truck

Steve’s map had a very important concept captured in the forefront of the imagery. That concept is represented by a dump truck with the words “get rid of” on its side.

The get rid of dump truck was Steve’s way of signaling the importance of letting go of unnecessary demands, priorities, and cultural legacy components that would have hindered Mercedes-Benz’s customer experience transformation. This letting go process was particularly important since Steve knew that success would need to happen without increasing headcount or making major expenditures.

I personally look forward to a balanced year providing keynotes, workshops, and strategic consultation to leaders like yourself. Let’s set-up a call to talk about ways to prioritize and streamline your 2020 customer experience and leadership objectives. I can be reached here!

Smoke over black background

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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