How many balls are you dropping?

I heard someone’s business strategy described by a frustrated consultant as this “They throw as many balls in the air as they can lay their hands on, set deadlines and targets they know are unreasonable and unachievable, and drive everyone as hard as they can. Their aim is to keep as many balls in the air as possible for as long as possible. They know quite a lot will fall to the ground, but some of the ones they keep up will be successful’.

Sounds like madness, doesn’t it? Can you imagine the chaos, panic and stress in this business? Can you imagine the shouting and screaming, the rudeness and bullying? What about the waste of time, effort and energy and the destruction of  human spirit? I can hardly begin to tell you how much this approach is anathema to me.

It’s an extreme example, isn’t it? Perhaps not. Research tells us that over half of all projects started in business fail. That’s not counting the all the little ‘initiatives’ that peter out without ever becoming projects (we’ve all got lots of those, haven’t we?). So, more of the balls we chuck in the air fall to the ground than we catch. How many of us have a strategy that is really just a slightly more considered version of the above? Not completely random, but fairly random.

There’s nothing wrong with failure. Getting stuff wrong is how we find out what works. But most of this failure is predicatable and avoidable. A bit of strategy, process and discipline is all it takes. It’s not very hard, but you have to want to do it. Or would you prefer to just carry on like a drunk juggler, dropping the balls all over the place?

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