Focus is the future

Preview of an article from Business News June 2016 – We asked Clive Keyte, Managing Director at Intrafocus Limited to explain the phrase Focus is the Future.

Q: What do you mean by “focus is the future”, surely you mean focus on the future?
CK: No. Focusing on the future has it’s place, but I really do mean, Focus is the future. If I could give only one piece of advice to business leaders it would be ”focus on what matters.” Business leaders and especially business owners get far too involved in the day-to-day running of their companies

Q: Surely that’s a good thing. Shouldn’t they be actively involved?
CK: Yes of course, but it is a question of degree. A business leader needs to lead. Employees look to them to steer the ship not maintain the engines. The future of the business is in the leaders’ hands. They should be concentrating on building the business. That is, sifting through the hundred and one things they could be doing and picking one, two or three strategic priorities for the company.

Q: That seems easy enough, job done!
CK: Aha, sorry it does not stop there. For every strategic priority, a set of business objectives has to be set, and then a set of KPIs (see opposite for the definition of a KPI). For each KPI there needs to be an appropriate target. Only then, can you look at what projects or initiatives need to be put in place to drive a strategy. If a good strategic process is in place, it’s easy. If not, even the best business leaders will fall at the first hurdle.

Q: This may be a daft question, but what exactly is a KPI?
CK: A KPI is a Key Performance Indicator. A business measure not a personal measure. It tells us whether or not a business is succeeding. There do not need to be many, but they do need to be aligned to business objectives.

Q: So, priorities generate objectives which in turn generate KPIs, targets and then projects or initiatives. That’s a lot of work!
CK: Exactly, that is why focus is so important. There is an ancient saying that is still true today; “plan one thing, and you will succeed, plan three things and you will succeed in one, plan ten things and you will fail in everything.” All of the greatest business leaders have been focused. They concentrate on the few critical things that really make a difference.

Q: But business is not like that, something is always going to turn up that needs attention
CK: There is no doubt about that. But it does not excuse a lack of focus. It is important to get the balance right, that’s where we can help. We can provide the method, tools and techniques to ensure that business leaders concentrate on the things that matter. Time needs to be set aside to figure out how to do this.

Q: So you would advocate a high level of focus?
CK: I certainly would. Our company name did not come about by accident. We even talk about it’s origins on the Intrafocus home page. Our job is to help companies look at themselves (Intra), identify the things that really matter and deal with them (focus).  It’s as simple as that.

Q: And how do you go about that?
CK: There are several ways. The answer is not always the same, all organisations are different and they need to be treated differently. Even so, there are some constants, like good strategic process.  Business leaders and especially business owners need to understand that strategy is not something that can be dealt with once a year or just bolted on to the side of an existing process. Our best classes are the ones we teach at a clients site. When we get invited in to help develop a strategy.  We may not know the business backwards like the people we are teaching, but we do know how to guide them through a tried and tested process to ensure they create, and most importantly maintain, an excellent strategy that will ensure the future of the business.

Clive Keyte is the managing director of Intrafocus Limited who provide strategic consultancy services and software.