Focus on One Thing at a Time

Rothman Consulting Group, Inc.
Vol 8, #9: Focus On One Thing at a Time
Dec 30, 2011                                                                                      ISSN: 2164-1196

Focus On One Thing at a Time

How many projects are you trying to focus on? I once worked at an organization that had the slogan, “Focus on Five.” I came home to my husband, and said, “Is it just me, or is something fishy about this?”


Mark laughed, and said, “No, how can you focus on more than one thing at a time?”


I can't. Neither can you. Focus means just that: to narrow your vision to focus on one thing to the exclusion of other things–for now. The consequences of not focusing your mind on your work are creating defects if you are a developer, missing defects if you are a tester, and everything taking foreeeevvvveerrr no matter who you are.


Oh, we can switch quickly. Some of us are quite good at fast switches. Some of us, not so good. And, for many of us, it depends on what we are switching between. Give me something like dinner preparation, and I am a whiz at switching among the various pieces and getting everything on the table where the hot things are hot and the cold things are cold and everything is in the correct order. But give me two or more significant mental problems, like projects, and I can't switch easily. I have to choose an order in which to do them. I have to focus first on one and then the other.


If I don't make the right decisions about dinner, we can always have peanut butter and jelly. The consequences are not so bad.


And, if I'm a manager and I don't make project portfolio decisions, and allow rampant multitasking, then I've let any number of teams flounder, and that wastes money and their time. I have not helped the teams focus on the most strategic projects.


So, if you are a technical person trying to balance your work among 137 projects, stop. And, if you are a manager asking a technical person to do a little here and little there, stop. You are fooling no one, except, maybe yourself. Decide what work you are not going to do–for now. Each of you, discuss what is strategically important. Then decide what one project the technical person will do for the next week. Do it, along with all the other people on that one project.


And, if you are a manager, get together with the other managers, and start managing the project portfolio. Make those difficult decisions about what you are going to stop doing, for now. Make sure the project teams know who they are, and start flowing work through the teams.


This is tough work. And, it pays off fast, by allowing the teams to increase their throughput even faster than you can imagine. To learn more, see Manage Your Project Portfolio.


Coaching About Your Project Portfolio

A number of you have asked about personal coaching for your project portfolios. In response, I've developed this peer project portfolio coaching program designed for individuals to learn how to adapt the ideas in Manage Your Project Portfolio to your own work.
And, of course, just as I was about to send out this email, a few small leadership teams asked about virtual coaching. So, if you are a leadership team and you would like virtual coaching about the project portfolio, let met know.


The early-bird signup is good through January 8, 2012, so sign up now. 

Website Makeover


I've been busy revamping my website. I hope you find the site easier to navigate. I have finally posted all those articles that were missing for years. Let me know what you think.


See back issues of the Pragmatic Manager here.

I keep my blogs current with my writings: Managing Product Development

Hiring Technical People

and my newest blog (with it's own new mailing list) Create an Adaptable Life.


I hope you enjoyed this small New Year's tip. Have a great 2012.


© 2011 Johanna Rothman

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