Track & Field Athletics requires focused execution that combines the need to respond in the present while staying laser focused on the end outcome. Get too caught up in the mid-race battles and you’ll have nothing left to win it at the end. Focus only on the end and the race can leave you behind.
Watching the 110m Hurdles final at this week’s European Championships in Zurich provided a vivid reminder of the importance of getting this balance right. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re running a business, a team or a race, the principles are the same.
If you missed it, the defending champion Sergey Shubenkov of Russia won the race in 13.19. According to Colin Jackson – and as former World Champion and World Record Holder he should know – Shubenkov won because “he ran the cleanest race”. Steve Cram commented that through the middle of the race “no-one seemed to want to win it” as athletes got in front and then clattered hurdles to scupper their victory. Shubenkov by comparison stayed focused on executing his plan to run the fastest 110m over hurdles, rather than getting caught up trying to race over every barrier.
So what’s this got to do with business? While breaking down a long term outcome into manageable steps is always a good idea, it’s not without risk. The demands of the moment often lead organisations (like athletes) to get too caught up in the here and now and forget the ultimate purpose of the activity. The means to an end becomes the end in itself. As activity becomes increasingly reactive, frustration rises as the hard work fails to deliver the outcome they set out to achieve.
The take away? Organisations need to ensure that they are leading their people towards the long-term outcome, and not just managing their short-term activities. This can be achieved by:
- using insight to create a simple plan that clearly connects activities to outputs and subsequent outcomes
- creating measures that enable managers to regularly monitor progress on these activities, outputs and outcomes
- using the connected plan to ensure individual and team KPIs reflect their contribution to the end goal not just localised activities
With these three things in place, organisations will be well placed to ensure that insight successfully drives impact not just activity.