Make the connection

How we connect our efforts to the big picture

Lessons learned from entrepreneur by Demian Entrekin
July 1, 2009
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 It doesn't seem to matter where I go, the challenges seems to revolve around one strikingly similar question: "How do we prioritize our efforts based on the current situation?"

Another way to ask this question is this: "How do we allocate our limited resources?"

We may be in a steady-state mode, where we focus on getting the most out of the business model we are following.

We may be in a greenfield mode, where we are trying to do something new, or at least do something old in a new way.

Or we may be in a burning-platform mode where we have recognized that we can no longer keep doing what we are doing.  That the model is broken.  That the economics don't work anymore, or the market has moved passed us, or the environment has turned against us.

The one common thread here is that we still need to figure out how to connect our projects (read: the stuff we are working on) to the needs of the organization.  What are the priorities? 

What's often missing here is a linking mechanism to make the connection.  For example, we may have a big, hairy, lofty vision, but how do we connect our vision to where we spend our time?  For now, I say that the best answer is a very clear, very short, list of Key Success Factors.  These key success factors map our vision to our economic drivers.

These key success factors need to be clear and tangible.  They are things we can quantify.  People need to be able to articulate in normal language how their efforts impact them. 

In a perfect world, there are no more than three of them.  Here is an example of three that might be instructive:

1. Increase our footprint in the ABC market by 100% by Date
2. Reduce Operational Expenses by 20% by Date
3. Cut the duration of our release cycles in half by Date

These may be totally wrong for you, but they are pretty clear.  People can connect their work to them.  Ideas flow up from everywhere, but priorities flow down.  This is what leaders do.  They make these things clear. 

And when the situation changes, they do it again.

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