12 Feb Battling the Urgent
“The challenge is to keep the urgent from pushing aside the important.”
– John Holdren, Senior Advisor to President Barak Obama
Most of us fall into the habit of responding to an unending cascade of demands. We struggle vainly to clear our inbox, or struggle to ignore the increasing number of unread messages. We take care of the item in front of us that is squealing the loudest, and frankly easier to solve than what really requires our attention. The urgent often outweighs the truly important.
When we engage in long-term planning, we allow ourselves to deliberately set aside the persistent small demands, and free our energy to focus on the deeper issues that are there underneath all the daily tasks. This can feel uncomfortable, as these deeper issues have often not been dealt with because they are long-term, complex and require help from others to solve. However, we can recognize these areas of tension or discomfort as “sweet spots.” These sweet spots represent opportunities for real advancement. By moving in to these areas of tension we can identify significant areas for improvement. Rather than focusing on our individual “to-do” list we can work with other to develop complex solutions that approach issues from multiple fronts and keep our long-term goal in sight.
The challenge is, of course, how to make this possible. Arguably, planning in an organization is one of the most important functions of leadership. As leaders, this become part of the way we work and becomes a daily priority, not something to set aside for when we have time.