“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.“
– Stephen R. Covey
Many of us know SOS as Morse Code and the universal signal for distress and HELP!! But today I am referring to the distress that we may cause to our businesses and our lives – Shiny Object Syndrome.
Shiny Object Syndrome is also known as “initiative overload”, “scope creep”, the “good idea fairy” or New Years Resolutions. Maybe you are guilty of doing it to yourself – taking on more than you have the capacity or time to execute. Maybe you are guilty of doing it to your team. Maybe you have a client that just keeps changing the goal post for what success on a deliverable and project looks like. No matter how the Shiny Object Syndrome enters your life, it’s going to cause distress – to you, to your team, to your relationships.
So how do we combat the Shiny Object Syndrome with our clients, bosses and selves? Through planning, commitment and accountability.
Planning. Have you ever set a goal without a plan to achieve it? That is Shiny Object Syndrome. It’s the dopamine hit of saying “I’m going to do an Ironman” or “I’m getting back to the gym” or “I’m going to read 100 books this year” that makes shiny objects so shiny. They sound good and they feel good, we can see them accomplished and we give ourselves a little dopamine reward just for thinking that it could be a reality. However, without a plan, shiny objects are just unaccomplished ideas, a grave yard of good intentions. At MCFA, we are in the planning business. We set quarterly goals that are little projects, each of those projects has a plan with milestones and “to be accomplished by” dates. These milestones allow us to maintain accountability to ourselves, our team and our plan! The most important part of the plan is resourcing – our own time or our team’s time is usually the biggest hurdle to accomplishing the goal. Planning forces us to sort through the shiny objects by figuring out how much it will cost in time, money or supporting resources to accomplish. Planning is a reality check, it’s the How,
Accountability. If the NFL didn’t have a scoreboard, we wouldn’t know who was winning and no one would pay attention to the game. In the game of business or fitness or personal finance or project development, we need a scoreboard that let’s us know whether we are winning or losing – whether we are on-track or off-track (that was for our transportation partners!). Whether it’s at home with your kids working on daily chores or at work with your project team working on daily KPI’s, having some way of giving feedback leads to a higher level of accountability. Just the act of telling someone you want to accomplish something and then allowing them to ask you about it is a form of accountability. By the way, did you go to the gym today?
Commitment. The biggest problem with Shiny Object Syndrome is that ideas are easy. And they are easy because an idea or a dream doesn’t require commitment. Good ideas are a dime a dozen. Operationalizing and implementing those ideas are where the rubber meets the road. And if you put a plan together, resource the plan to ensure it’s feasible, create an accountability process and commit to yourself and your team (or friend or family) that you are going to do something, your likelihood of success goes up.
A note to my visionary & entrepreneurial friends: Ideas, brainstorming, challenging, and painting a compelling future is in our D-N-A. We should do this on a regular basis but we shouldn’t share with our team on a regular basis. Our teams need to be focused on executing the plans. I have learned the hard way that initiative overload on myself or my team only leads to frustration, disappointment and a lack of success. That’s why we have turned towards quarterly goal setting and quarterly priority setting. It’s our way of shrinking annual initiatives into quarterly progress check-ins. It also forces us to iterate and improve our communication, our resourcing, and our goal setting. The results speak for themselves. We are constantly improving the process but we even have a process for capturing the shiny objects and vetting them because as creative and as visionary as we may be, not every idea should see the light of day.
Last note: I grew up with the SMART goal acronym but recently read this article from MIT on the FAST Goal process. It’s a worthy read.
So, we are one week into the Quarter. What are you going to accomplish BEFORE the New Year without falling prey to SOS!?
BJ Kraemer, President