As I think about the challenges leaders face, a recurring theme centers around the persistent need to balance limited resources – specifically people, money and time.
We all face the challenge of balancing our resources, as nearly every decision we make consumes a portion of one or more of these precious assets. With this in mind, we move to ask the question “How do we ensure we are making the best use of our limited resources?”
In a creative, technology-based (or service-based) business, the grist of most that is provided to customers (in terms of value) comes in the way of new ideas that are exceptionally delivered as a product and/or service. New ideas can only be generated by people, our most dear and limited resource. And this idea generation, discussion, evaluation, debate, consideration, and eventual action-taking all require time. So, if we have limited time, and limited people resources, how do we manage for excellent results? I find this to be one of the most exhilarating parts of my role as CEO.
The lure of engaging in pure ideation, balanced against the tyrannical reality of the urgent and ever present necessity to drive business results, presents an ongoing challenge for every CEO and leader I know. Ideation is fun. It is not an accountable activity – we can engage in it, and, if nothing big comes of it, no immediate penalty is levied. However, we know that each moment we spend in one activity has an opportunity cost – personally, professionally and to the organization we lead. So we need to ensure we stay goal focused, even when we are trying to be creative.
While this process is challenging, it can present immense opportunities for organizational growth. As a result, it is important for all types of organizations to balance their strategic goals with their creativity.
I find it helpful to ask the following three questions to myself and my team:
- Are we discussing something that has potential for big and favorable impact on customer experience?
- Is it something we have the necessary skills, resources and competencies to deliver in a reasonable (maximum one year, ideally much shorter) period of time?
- Can we measure the impact of this decision if we green light it?
Often times, simply asking these three questions will be enough to redirect our team onto a more reality-based course - something that is more likely to yield substantive benefit to our customers in a shorter period of time, with significantly less execution risk on our part.
If the answer to question number one is “No,” then we don’t have a good reason to spend our time on it. If the answers to questions one and two are “Yes,” then we must find the discipline to move to answer question number three, despite any temptation to press forward.
I have found that this structure helps tremendously as our team evaluates ideas and solutions that revolve around serving our customers and growing our business. Take the time to ask your team these questions, and challenge yourself to put this simple exercise into practice every day- it will only help your association allocate its resources and ensure that you are on track to yield long-term, sustainable growth.