Focus fragmentation is a phenomenon we see with almost all our clients, but especially with mission-driven organizations. What is it? Focus fragmentation is the result of honing in on whichever issues seem most pressing at any given time, day after day, month after month, year after year.

Working so reactively can lead to great outcomes in short periods, but it can also lead to a blurred focus and convoluted, outdated, or confusing messaging.

So what? If work is getting done, work is getting done! True, but is it the work on which your organization should focus? Are there broader, more significant issues to address instead? Plus, surviving in and emerging from a global recession will require an accurate, authentic, and actionable message. If your focus is fragmented, your message is absolutely none of those things.  Here’s what to do:

Working reactively can lead to great outcomes in short periods, but it can also lead to a blurred focus and convoluted, outdated, or confusing messaging.

The Focus Fragmentation Fix

Fixing a fragmented focus is simple, though it is not easy. Here are four steps to take:

Breathe. First, take a literal and figurative deep breath. Remember, you cannot service a car when the engine is running, paint a boat when it’s in the water, or fix a faucet with flowing water. You and your core team must find the time to step back. You may argue you do not have that luxury. We assert that the longer organizations go with fragmented focus, the more likely they are to fail outright. As in life, not breathing is not an option.

Inventory. Next, take stock in what you are doing, what you are not doing, and what you think you will be expected to do in the future. What are the real and opportunity costs for each? How do they align with what you and your organization set out to accomplish from the very beginning? If it’s significantly different, is that okay? Or is a return to your roots in order?

Ask. You will not have all the answers to those questions with just an internal review, but that’s okay. All you have to do is ask. Ask who? Ask anyone with a point-of-view about your work, field, or organization. Sorry, this step is not optional. With focus fragmentation, we forget not only what we do not know; we forget what others do not know. Asking is the only way out of focus fragmentation.

Put it all together. The ultimate goal is to get clear on what your organization does best in the context of what is needed most. When you marry what you learned in steps two and three, you should have a better idea. If clarity still eludes you, consider finding a balance between what has the greatest impact with the least effort and most effort. And, if you’re doing anything that doesn’t have much impact, even if it does not require a lot of effort, stop.

These steps are relatively straightforward, but they are not easy by any means. If your organization’s focus has become fragmented over the years, they are necessary for your future success.

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