The pandemic has caused some chaos, to say the least. The uncertainty and severity of the situation has caused most of us to shift focus, reconsider our efforts and priorities, and question risk. As a result, it’s critical to reexamine how to maximize opportunities, results, and challenges. While there’s still plenty of unpredictability, there are several clear rules to follow that will help you prioritize and improve results.
- I believe the 80-20 rule (which states 80% of results are from 20% of sales) is one of the most useful guidelines. Reassess and renew efforts on programs that have the most potential. But, it is equally important to eliminate unproductive efforts.
- Bigger is getting more important: For example, between 40-50% of online consumer sales are on Amazon. You can’t ignore that impact and its affect on results.
- Prioritize innovation. Culture, execution, measurement, marketing, and operations are critical elements that support success from innovation.
- Learn to prioritize more effectively. Focus on what you’re good at and pay less attention to your weaknesses. For example, I have a client who has the best product in the industry, but charges a little more money. She has achieved success by moderating some prices, but mostly by developing messaging that explains her quality difference.
- Limit objectives to a handful. Limiting strategic priorities allows you to focus on what matters most. It can also serve as a way to drive a decision when faced with difficult trade-offs, which can also increase results. We are frequently encouraged to develop multiple alternatives; yet, spending time on weak alternatives can be extremely wasteful.
- Make the hard decisions. We need to be flexible in order to evaluate alternatives and respond to change, but we also need to make firm choices to manage challenges and trade-offs.
- Address critical vulnerabilities. We tend to focus on strengths and opportunities and ignore challenges, but this can lead to neglecting a vital aspect of a plan. For example, logistics, customer service, and safety are frequently overlooked, but they can provide important differentiation that will make your business stand out.
- Provide specific action plans. They should be concrete enough that participants throughout the organization can understand what to focus on and what to avoid.
- Eliminate costly and unproductive activities. This is key. Consider cell phones, email, social media, and the Internet: Most of it is time-consuming junk that can be eliminated or reduced (or, at least, not viewed every minute of the day). Develop a master list of activities and then categorize them into areas like: urgent, maintenance versus development, cost, risk, results, probability of success etc. This will help you see which activities need more focus and which need less as you prioritize.
- Consider culture. It’s a critical component of establishing priorities. Sometimes, “now is not the time” is an appropriate response. Other times, opportunities for change are required and you need to be as prepared as possible. For example: Issues like safety, stress, and uncertainty have become critical elements and adapting to the pandemic is unavoidable.
Opportunities to expand your market will arise—so keep the 80-20 rule in mind as things change. Some efforts could be declining while new critical opportunities may be emerging. These instances are worth serious consideration—especially when the investment is minor. You may open up a door to a broader 20 percent.
So remember: prioritization can produce dramatic results. Spend more time analyzing your priorities and watch how that affects your results.