Olympic Gold Focus

Following the London 2012 olympics on BBC, I’ve heard a lot superlatives. No surprise. I’ve also heard the word ‘focus‘ a lot. Still no surprise: we all understand that olympians need to really focus on their performance – to the exclusion of all else – to get a gold medal performance. A few years ago there was a article in Podium Sportsjournal on that subject with a nice anecdote from the 2008 olympics.

Back in ‘the office’ I see very little focus. Many organizations have too much work for the staff available, according to Planview’s Third Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Study 2012.

Is focus not important to businesses or teams? I think it is! Too much work often means rushing the task at hand or frequent task switches, which leads to mistakes and often costly rework. It also leads to stress and frustration among staff, and may lead to unhappy customers as a result of defects or missed deadlines.

Thinking about this always reminds me of “Peopleware“, in which the authors show (among many other things) that the environment in which you work greatly affects your productivity.

So by doing too much you’re less productive than you could be!
The trick is deciding which things to do. To start with, many organizations would benefit even if they just arbitrarily selected which projects to do – as long as they make sure their staff is not over-committed. The next step would be to implement a good portfolio management process, along with the tools to support it. If you’re at that stage, have a look at Flightmap, or read Jac Goorden’s blog on portfolio management.
Let’s see some gold medal performances in industry – it is possible with the right focus!