Chapter 12

Know When to Say “No”

The leadership team of an innovative healthcare company had assembled in a rustic old coach house nestled in the heart of the city. I remember the room vividly for two reasons. First, because we were talking about space-age technology while sitting in a 150-year-old garage. Second, because the sloping ceilings made it nearly impossible to post things on the walls. We were there to set the team's course for the coming year, and, given the overwhelming number of projects they were trying to accomplish, I really needed to stick things on the walls!

The team faced a problem many organizations would envy: They couldn't keep up with the demand for their services. They had introduced a new way of delivering healthcare that made high-quality care more accessible, cost effective, and timely. The problem now was that everyone wanted a piece of them and the small organization was straining under the load.

They came into the retreat with a list of 73 strategic projects for the next fiscal year. I gently explained that strategic planning is as much about what you're not going to do as what you are going to do. They listened and then set to work cutting their list—to 27 high-priority strategic initiatives.

Fabulous! We had progress—I thought. But when they presented their ideas, they hadn't taken anything off the table. Instead, they had played that old shell game of grouping projects under new, broader umbrella terms, without actually removing a single activity. ...

Get You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along, and Get Stuff Done now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.