I'm doing a coaching gig. Client: Small biz at a critical crossroads. Getting some serious ameliorative stuff done in the next 120 days is almost a life & death issue. The Boss is a wreck, swamped with an agenda a mile long. "So what's most important?" I asked. "Everything," was his ever-so-reasonable and emphatic reply. After a half-day's head scratching & head banging, we'd come up with two priorities. (I insisted on just one, but, what the hell, two beats "everything.") Next: Express each of the Big Two in 10 words or less. (We're not talking about an ad tag line for Diet Pepsi here, but it is imperative that each key idea be expressed in clear, compelling, succinct, dramatic verbiage.) Next: Convince one and all (about 25 people) that ... Life v. Death = Abiding Attention to Two Big Things over the Next 120 Days. My advice to my Client on this score: "Upon presenting your case, you must do THREE THINGS EACH & EVERY DAY [Measure this!] that will clearly illustrate your unmistakable & unflinching commitment to THE TWO BIG THINGS." "Moreover," I added, "one of the three daily actions must be a little bit bizarre, to illustrate the lengths to which you'll go to make this 'fix' happen. The key words are: FOCUS [two big things] ... CLARITY [10 words max] ... INTENSITY ... ENTHUSIASM ... OPTIMISM [if it kills you] ... VISIBILITY [out and about and intrusive] ... REPETITION [three actions per day] ... EXTREME [one of three daily actions demonstrates 'over-the-top' commitment]."
Two weeks have passed, and what's most visible is remarkable hustle. It more or less turns out, I believe, that the specific ideas are actually less important than the Intensity of focus on results in general.
Lesson: I think a process like this has more or less universal applicability—to a wobbly project as well as a business about to tank. Try it! (Let me know if you've ever done an exercise like this. Or if you try this, let me know how it works.)