Are you doing what is important or what is easy?
How many of you have a to-do list? And if you have one, how do you prioritise it?
There is a whole time management and productivity industry out there to give you advice. But if you follow it, you will, ironically, spend most of your time organising your to-do list rather than doing the things on it.
The reality is that most of us use one of two ways to prioritise. What is easiest to do or what is most urgent to do? Both make you feel good because you’ve ticked something off the list. But, it is rarely helpful. When we do the easy stuff we don’t do the hard stuff. When we do the urgent stuff we don’t do the important stuff. What is really important is rarely easy or urgent.
How do you change this? Well, Mark Twain probably put it simplest “if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And it it’s your job to eat 2 frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first”. Translation = do the big, hard thing first. Before you do anything else.
Last week we talked about how companies or brands with the least resource often do the most creative and impactful things. This is often because they know what their frog is and they have no choice but to eat it. However, bigger companies or brands, that have more resource, often find it harder to identify what the frog is. And if you don’t know what the frog is, it is pretty hard to eat it.
So, you spend lots of time, often lots of money, doing lots of things. But these are often the things that are easiest. Or the things that are most urgent. Or the things that you are set up to do. They are often not the most important things. The things that you need to do in order to win in the marketplace.
So, how can you do less of the easier stuff and more of the harder, more important stuff?
FROM: Research and data focused. TO: Knowledge focused. When you have access to information or the budget to get information, then the easiest thing to do is get more of it. But this often leads to a problem. Either it tells you what you already knew. Or, it blinds you – you have so much data that you can’t see the wood from the trees.
We find that many companies have lots of data. But, fewer companies have real knowledge. A distilled summary of what is really important to winning with consumers and shoppers for a brand, category or channel. Knowledge that the key people in the company need to know. And need to act on. This is the frog that needs to be eaten first. Smaller companies and brands often have that knowledge. Not because they have got all that data, but because they haven’t got it.
FROM: Template driven. TO: Action driven. Many companies have lots of templates. There are often good reasons for this – if you are working across different categories or different markets then you want consistent ways of doing things. However, the more templates you have, the more you encourage a template filling culture. The template can become an end in itself. Not a means to an end like it should be.
This can mean more time and energy internally is spent on the templates not on defining the actions and executing those actions. And the more steps in the process, the longer it takes you to get to those actions and their execution. Smaller companies and brands rarely use templates. They quickly get to the key actions. Then they focus their attention on executing those actions. They are eating the frog. Often doing this, whilst the bigger company is still filling in the templates.
FROM: NPD focused. TO: Core focused. Many companies and brands are set up to launch a few pieces of NPD each year. Of course, NPD is important. It would be a boring world without it. Many categories wouldn’t develop. However, a lot of NPD is a new flavour or variant, a slight brand or pack refresh. It is often not genuine innovation.
All the time you spend launching small bits of NPD is time that is not being spent trying to grow the core. And it is often the core that is being attacked – by challenger brands, discounter brands, private label. Launching small NPD is the easy option. Strengthening the core is the harder one. But, it is the frog that needs to be eaten. First.
Getting more data, filling in templates, launching another variant – they are all tasks on the to do list. But they are the easy ones, not the hard ones.
The hard ones are green and ugly. When are you going to eat that frog?
Feel free to forward. Have a good weekend and speak to you next week.