Great results (and speed) come from focus

I have been working and writing and thinking quite a bit about how to help my clients get more OUT of their systems. My last blog post inspired Pierre Khawand to ping me with this great video of him describing his 40 minute focus for breakthrough results, which is connected to his The Accomplishing More With Less Workbook.

He illustrates in three minutes a key element of why helping people focus is so important. The basic idea is familiar: when people are interrupted in their work, they struggle to get back into the swing of things. I usually talk about this in the context of multitasking and how long it takes to complete a job, compared to what it would take with focused effort. Pierre takes an orthogonal view on the same situation. He looks at results obtained over time. With a focused effort, results come and ramp up as work proceeds. But when there are frequent interruptions - unchecked, ungated, no way to say "no" - then those results can never hit the ramp. People are continually getting restarted.

Finding ways to focus - or letting people focus, if you are the manager is the key to bringing both results and speed to the organization. Pierre acknowledges a limit to the results that come in any given focus period. He recommends pausing to reenergize, an idea that inspires the Pomodoro Technique and similar approaches: Work - rest - Work.

Sounds like I might want to pick up his book.

3 Comment(s)

Brett said:

The US Army works with a similar idea, albeit on a much longer time scale than most companies. A unit will go through 3 phases: training, where the unit members train individually and collectively, to prepare for their upcoming mission; mission execution, somewhat self explanatory; and recovery, where the unit does required maintenance on equipment and - most importantly - the unit members have a chance to take leave to rest, relax, and recharge.

The key is that when the unit is in their mission execution phase, they are "fenced off" from all of the external distractions that seem to always pop up. They are given the opportunity to focus.

I've often wondered if there is a way to somehow bring this type of cycle into a business environment, where the focus is almost always exclusively on the mission execution phase.

Thanks, Brett. Interesting observation. I wonder if this relates to Dave Snowden's comments about modern management being designed around a military model - a peacetime military model. When the stuff hits the fan, the military shifts gears into execution mode. Businesses designed this way don't.

On a more practical line of thinking, this is where the importance of running interference comes up. Don't allow just anyone to interrupt the work. Have someone man the "help desk" or whatever it is in your organization. Teach people to say, "I am not available right now. I will be at XYZ." Or "We will get to that later, and we commit to completing it ."

Shim Marom said:

Great link to a concept that we should all internilize to achieve better results.

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