Clear Focus - When to Say 'No' as an Organization

What are your organization’s true priorities that drive growth, revenue and success?


David Woods, a partner at GiANT Worldwide and a leadership consultant to organizations from Fortune 500s to small businesses, uses the term “master executives to describe leaders who have passionate, powerful and effective leadership skills. In this video, David discusses the “amazing skill to be able to say ‘no’ within an organization.”

It all starts with a clear strategic vision. Having strategic focus is a key skill set that lets everyone know what they are doing together – and what they won’t be doing. It’s vital to have this understanding within an organization, says David. Watch and listen to David to learn more about the steps to take in order to remain focused on “those things that can really grow [your organization] from a profit standpoint, a revenue standpoint, and also enable us to really stay in our sweet spot as an organization."

I want to talk to you for the next few minutes about a skill set that is owned mainly by people known as “master executives.” Master executives have this amazing skill to be able to say no inside of an organization. A lot of times, when a CEO or a leadership team talks about wanting to grow their organization, the first thing they begin to focus on is all the things they need to say yes to. The things they need to go do.

The reality, and the reality that most master executives begin to learn is that their real growth, dramatic growth of revenues and profits comes more from the ability to say no and focus the organization, rather than the ability to say yes to things.

This is a graph that shows one type of company. They have a very narrow and pretty clear idea of what they say yes to. On the outer band you'll see a section called "No." That's what they pretty well know what to say no to. But they have a very large area which is the "Maybe Zone." Now, what happens when you have a large maybe zone or think of that is we just don't have great clarity around 100% of the things that we should say yes to and no to? That becomes lots and lots of meetings. I would call that sort of "Wallow World." In other words, we think something's a good idea, but let's just go have a whole bunch of meetings over the next few months to try to determine is that really a yes idea or a no idea?

That often happens when about the only filter an organization has is, "Do we think we could make money at that?" Your filtering needs to be much larger than that, much more robust.

Brent Douglass, in an earlier video that you might be able to see on Leadercast Now, talks about the concept of filtering. The second type of organization that is fairly common, looks like this. That's where we have a very large "yes" zone, pretty narrow "maybe" and pretty narrow "no." Think of that as shiny object syndrome. Everything sounds like a good idea. And again, the only filter is, "Do we think we could make money at it?" If the answer is yes, we go try that.

What typically happens in an organization like that is over a period of time, usually in the nine-month range, for some reason, that's about the time that people begin to realize what are we doing this for? We have no business being in this product, in this market or whatever it might be. So the idea is we want to get so much clarity that our chart looks more like this. That our chart actually has a really large "No" zone.

And if you can teach your entire organization around this, so that very quickly, on the fly without ever coming and talking to the owner or the CEO or the management team, people on your team inside your organization can say, "That's not what we're about. We don't even need to talk about that idea. Let's get our creativity focused on those things that can really grow us from a profit standpoint, a revenue standpoint, and really stay in our sweet spot as an organization."

Now, one of the tools that you can use for this is a simple stop-doing meeting. So if you've never tried that, pull together a cross-functional group of some of your senior leaders, and decide amongst yourselves that you're going to have a two or three hour meeting that is nothing other than a stop-doing meeting. That means we're going to look at products, markets, maybe even employees, those kinds of things and say, "What can we stop doing that we know in our hearts that we shouldn't be doing anyway?"

This is also an effective tool within departments to have stop-doing meetings. Oftentimes there's procedures and paperwork and all kinds of processes that go on that really eat up a lot of an organization's capacity. So start at the big picture with your big filters, understanding who you really are, and let that trickle down using the tool of stop-doing in a lot of your departments.

GiANT Partners

GiANT Partners grows organizations by growing the executives who lead them. They grow hearts. They grow minds. They grow executive skills. They grow the significance that comes when everyone is on the same page.

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