A simple but highly effective way to remain focused on strategic value is to be attentive to doing the right things and doing them right.
Step 1 – Do the Right Things: Check in with yourself and your colleagues making sure that the tasks you’re working on are actually the ones that are most strategic (e.g. tasks that will direct you toward a specifically intended result). This assessment will require you to be brave, as often we can become so seduced by a juicy project that we lose perspective as to whether it’s the right thing to be doing at all. You could be working on a terrific assignment, but if the circumstance or priorities of your organization shift, the “right” and most strategic thing to do might be to raise a flag and suggest that resources be reallocated elsewhere.
As Peter Drucker, the preeminent authority on management thinking reminds us, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”
Step 2 – Do the Things Right: Once you’ve validated that you’re on the right track overall, carefully consider the way you’re accomplishing your task. For example, if you’re organizing a media event to launch a fundraising campaign, the most important priority might be to ensure that major donors are invited. In the hundreds of details you’re managing, this may be the single most important task you do – ensuring that those major donors are treated like royalty and have dedicated time to connect to your executives at the event.
By looking at your tasks through a strategic lens, it becomes clear what should float to the top of your priority list. This puts you ahead of the game, as very often those priorities are largely invisible and easily masked by the busyness of a task.
This practice of filtering issues through a strategic lens will also be an invaluable technique when inevitable trade-offs have to be made. For example, if you find out that one of your most important donors isn’t available on the date you planned for your media event, perhaps the right thing to do is to change the date and accept the logistical headache that comes with it because it’s the choice that best serves your ultimate objective.