Defeating Strategic Overwhelm

In this week's post I want to talk about one of the drivers for strategic overwhelm. There's a few - strategic misalignment, lack of leadership, governance capability, rapid legislative change.

But this one is the most common.

It's an insidious beast. It has a few alibis: too-much-ism; FOMO; control-freak-ation.....

Simply: It's the desire to do too much.

Who's guilty of this?

I certainly am. I've even been accused of stress addiction! Just as things seem to be going well, I have this tendency to add one more thing... Sometimes study, sometimes a committee... This time it's marathon training (over winter, when my kids already play winter sport, and it's my busiest time of the year for work. I KNOW.)

But it's dumb. The answer is to treat your goal clutter like you would treat any other: a good dose of minimalism. Here's why:


Strategic minimalism means understanding and respecting your bandwidth.

Time and attention are our most valuable organisational resources. Non-renewable, non-expandable - we can only allocate these precious assets so far. Being strategic with our time and money has never been more important. Yet, two thirds of managers are torn by conflicting priorities! Strategy isn’t executed, time is wasted and critical decisions are made on the fly.

The difficulty lies in making trade-offs. Trade-offs are at the heart of every decision. Intentional, strategic trade-offs have the power to move us closer to our objectives - but ad-hoc, delegated trade-offs take us further away.

The key is to set clear, simple priorities. We know that organisations with fewer priorities consistently report improved performance (Leinwand, 2010), because powerful priorities provide us with the freedom to focus.


I don't believe in balance, I believe in focus.

Getting hung up on balance puts you on a hiding to nothing, especially if it means constantly adding things.

By all means, achieve a spread of objectives - just limit how many you are aiming for. This can be a scary idea for some organisations - but it's a false fear.

Your bandwidth only stretches so far. If you try to stretch it further than it can go, the results are:

  • Overwhelmed managers and delivery staff

  • Sub-par decision making and service quality

  • Failure to achieve objectives.

I'd rather achieve 3 focused objectives, than make minimal progress toward 12 - wouldn't you?

In my Strategic Focus programme, decision makers and senior managers acquire the tools to set powerful priorities at the strategic level, unleashing the potential for productivity, engagement and impact across and outside of their organisation. Over 1-5 workshops, we carefully identify where best to place our attention for impact and influence, and what needs to "go" to make this happen.



  • Ask your team questions like:

    • "If we could only solve one problem, what would it be?"

    • "If our budget was cut in half tomorrow, where would we put it?"


  • Evaluate your current and future work programme against a clear set of priorities

  • Use a consistent framework for evaluating and prioritising decisions

  • Sharpen your focus for the next quarter by delegating,delaying or cancelling low-priority projects.


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