Does your agenda need a good prune?

Dedicate your next executive team meeting to creating an “inaction” list to prune your agenda to improve your strategic focus


Every meeting your organisation holds generates more and more action points to be piled on people’s heads. How about breaking the pattern, just once? The next time you get your management team together, use it to remove things from your plate. Watch the smiles break out around the table!

The starting point for this is to actually lay out everything that your organisation has committed to. You will be surprised how many initiatives, projects, actions, priorities, goals and objectives you have on the go. And if you add up the resources they require, you are attempting to eat two or three times more than you can digest.

You might argue that this is OK, that it is perfectly natural to have stretching ambitions even though it cannot all be done. Unfortunately, this overload will have negative consequences on strategic focus:

  • Knowing they cannot get it all done, the team will focus on delivering something – usually a small unimportant initiative, leaving the key strategic initiatives stalled
  • The organisation gets used to letting initiatives slide, reducing accountability

Organisations accumulate initiatives, projects and actions like ships collect barnacles, through a natural process of entropy. Like ships, this accumulation slows them down, and they need to be scrubbed clean regularly.

What meetings and reports can we manage without? If we lay out and prioritise the full list of projects we are attempting, can we drop the bottom 20%? What are the top 3 policies that contradict our values? What processes and reports can we scrap? What things are we pretending we will do, but secretly know that we won’t? What are we currently doing that, given a blank piece of paper, we would not start again? What are we spending time on that is not critical to our strategy? It may help to have this meeting facilitated to cut the deadwood systematically without pointing fingers or triggering defensiveness about pet projects.

The persistent reason that organisations make slow progress towards their strategy is that people are too busy on other things. Your people’s time is your organisation’s scarcest resource – it can’t be substituted for money.

Considering that every other meeting held adds to the agenda, surely it is worth some management time dedicated to prune back your strategic agenda occasionally? Every gardener knows their rosebushes grow stronger and more vigorously after a good pruning.