“We’ve got to focus on the critical issues!” You’re right, you do. But you also can’t ignore the “Non critical issues”. In fact, non-critical issues tend to become critical issues if left alone. They fester & grow & become critical because we were too focused on the critical issues of the day. Critical issues are fires, we have to put them out. Non critical issues are sparks, they won’t necessarily become a fire, but they have a very good chance of doing so. Eventually some of them will.
It’s not really any different than focusing solely on next quarters figures, or the next reporting period. We get so focused on the here & now, that we forget to think about what is coming afterwards. Sure there are times when this is necessary. Some organisations are in crisis & require crisis management, but this should not be the norm.
If we step back & look honestly at what we’re doing, and we can’t see any long term effort, focusing on how to stem the tide of the fires that rage, then it is likely we are heading for the inevitable cliff face. Of course I’m not suggesting we forget the critical issues & focus purely on long term strategy, but we need to balance the two.
Toyota’s first principle (of their 14) is “Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals”. Deming alludes to a more long term focus in all of his work; “Management must be judged not only by the quarterly dividend, but by innovative plans to stay in business, protect investment, ensure future dividends, and provide more jobs through improved products and services”, constancy of purpose, long term relationships, don’t neglect long-range planning, etc.. PepsiCo even has a guiding principle of “Balance short term and long term”. OK they are not all the same, there is no one size fits all for principles or focus.
Critical issues today, could potentially end your operation, sure. But never think that putting out those fires today is sufficient. Fighting fires can be exhilarating, being the one who does this can be rewarding, sadly. Many organisations reward those who are best at stopping fires, what they should be doing is rewarding those who stop it before it becomes a fire.
Sure, put effort into resolving critical issues, but prevention is always better than cure…