Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Implementation Road Map: Stephen Covey Suggested That "[T]he Key Is Not to Prioritize What's on Your Schedule, but to Schedule Your Priorities." This Advice Can Be Difficult to Follow When Priorities Conflict

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Implementation Road Map: Stephen Covey Suggested That "[T]he Key Is Not to Prioritize What's on Your Schedule, but to Schedule Your Priorities." This Advice Can Be Difficult to Follow When Priorities Conflict

Article excerpt

Many years ago, I attended a great training course. The course was called "Consulting for Organizational Effectiveness," and I'll never forget a question asked by the instructor. He asked us to identify who our customer was during a typical consulting engagement.

Most of the attendees were private consultants and had very similar answers, such as "the CEO," "the person who engaged me," "the person paying my invoice" and other similar sentiments. I never had been a private consultant, but I was sent to the course to improve my effectiveness as an internal service provider. After realizing nobody was providing the response the instructor was seeking, and after overcoming my complete lack of self-confidence, I nervously raised my hand and responded with a weak and shaky voice, "The organization?" The instructor literally screamed, "Exactly!" Confidence restored.

Organizations are distinct entities defined by a specific mission and purpose. Plans should be defined by the needs of the objective organization, and not in favor of any personal or functional agenda. This is why great consultants (internal and external) tend to say the darnedest things and make uncomfortable recommendations to the very people that hire them. Experienced advisers tend to focus improvement ideas on the interests of the organization, even if those ideas conflict with individual or departmental priorities.

The problem with establishing objective priorities, from an "organization's" perspective, is that individual priorities can, and will, conflict. The challenge is to set and revisit organizational priorities with all stakeholders present and begin to dismantle rote schedules in favor of organizational needs.

When it comes to controlling operational risk and managing regulatory compliance, incumbent tasks often conflict with an organization's "core" purpose. Risk control and/or regulatory compliance can be transformed from a series of conflicting tasks to a list of scheduled priorities by allowing the objective organization to establish shared purpose.

The Implementation Road Map Active Agenda module specifically was designed for the purpose of determining and scheduling organizational risk priorities. The module (process, really) is useful to organizations whether they are implementing Active Agenda or not.

The process begins with the distribution of card decks to each participant. Each card in the deck represents an operational risk control process and a description of the corresponding module (aka risk control business practice). …

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