In two earlier posts (here and here) I proposed two of three questions executives should ask themselves before embarking on a crusade for innovation. The third question, which concerns focus, is the topic of this article.
Let’s start with a simple proposition: ninety percent of all managers lack the requisite focus to successfully implement an innovation initiative.
An article entitled, Beware the Busy Manager, offers important insights into what is going on. For ten years, the authors studied the behavior of busy managers, and their findings are instructive: fully 90% of managers squander their time in all sorts of ineffective activities. A mere 10% of managers spend their time in a committed, purposeful, and reflective manner (i.e., the purposefulness quadrant).
Managers that fall into the other quadrants, by contrast, are usually just spinning their wheels; some procrastinate, others feel no emotional connection to their work (disengaged), and still others are easily distracted from the task at hand. Although they look busy, they lack either the focus or the energy required for making any sort of meaningful change.
The Bull in the China Shop
By far the largest group of managers found in the study—more than 40%—fell into the distracted quadrant: those well-intentioned, highly energetic but unfocused people who confuse frenetic motion with constructive action. When they’re under pressure, distracted managers feel a desperate need to do something—anything. That makes them as dangerous as the proverbial bull in a china shop.
Which brings us to the bull in the cartoon, he lacks credibility. The poor store clerk is just wasting for the inevitable rampage.
Likewise, it is no wonder that most employees react with groans when management announces, “We’re doing innovation!” That’s because most managers, and management teams. lack the focus to deliver. “Innovation” becomes just another flavor-of-the-month initiative, another euphemism – from the employees’ point-of-view –for spinning their wheels.
Now ask yourself, am I a focused manager? How about the rest of the management team in my organization? If we announced an innovation initiative, would we have any credibility?