The Overloaded Backburner

This morning I attended an event organised by the National Productivity Board. During this event, a researched study on Malta’s productivity was presented. Click HERE to download it. Do you know what is the main identified barrier for private businesses to increase productivity and be more innovative? Its the fact that business leaders “are largely focused on short-term objectives and goals rather than long term ambitions”. So very true.

Many businesses, especially family businesses have an overloaded back burner.

  • Strategic Planning with scenario planning and proper budgeting, to constantly analyse what is happening around us and how the business landscape is evolving – No time for that. Pushed to the back burner.
  • Proper training of top managers & staff to change value destructing mindsets & attitudes – No time for that. Pushed to the back burner.
  • A detailed analysis of internal structures and processes to first document present internal processes and secondly see how these could be improved – No time for that. Pushed to the back burner.
  • Succession Planning to ensure business continuity – No time for that. Pushed to the back burner.
  • Ensuring that internal processes enable data gathering, data analysis and proper reporting, to build a data centric culture, whereby everyone’s performance is measured with clear KPIs and decisions are based on data – No time for that. Pushed to the back burner.
  • Building the right governance structures, to ensure that the business is guided by the right amount of discipline and foresight, rather than what a single person thinks is the best way forward – No time for that. Pushed to the back burner.

Many family business leaders, find no time for the above. What do they spend their time on? They focus on trying to win a tender. They focus on dealing with daily operational issues – people calling in sick and how to man the business, a delivery lorry involved in an accident etc…You may think that these are instances of small or micro businesses of a few employees. Not at all. I constantly see family business leaders and owners who employ 40, 50, 60 employees or more….involved in their comfort zone – micromanaging things. They seem to be like firemen, always running around dealing with the latest crisis (fire) they need to sort (put out).

This reminds me of one basic lesson I learnt with regards Prioritisation Skills.

Many family business owners and leaders spend all their time in Quadrant I in permanent crisis mode – dealing only with Important & Urgent things. The end result of spending most of their time on activities in Quadrant I is a constant stress and ultimate burnout.

Many fail to realise that activities in Quadrant II may even be more important than activities in Quadrant I, but not necessarily more urgent.

Moreover, when focusing on activities in Quadrant II this will reduce the activities in Quadrant I, in the long run. Many crisis develop as we did not tackle the issue when it was in Quadrant II

Moreover, focusing on activities in Quadrant II will mean avoiding all unimportant activities in Quadrant III and IV.

Dealing with issues and challenges when they become a crisis means that the family business is wasting most of its energy running on the spot. It reminds me of a hamster I once had, who spent most of his life running on its wheel, without ever going anywhere.

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