‘Don't sweat the small stuff’ is an American informal phrase people use in order to tell someone not to worry about little things. The counter-proverb is ‘do sweat the small stuff’; which approach is right for you in your enterprise?
Within our organisations, we too often become intensely focused on ‘big-pictures’ and ‘broad-strokes’; purpose, vision and goals within the context of global-shifts and challenges. These mega-trends over which we have little or no control often dominate our thinking: from broad social trends; through imaginizing the effect of technological developments; different economic-futures scenario-building; probable political and legal shifts; whether we should hold firm to our values when our competitors seem to be behaving illegally or immorally; what if any corporate-social-responsibility campaigns should we embrace.
Much time is spent on discussing how we can catapult the organisation once we achieve our broad goals given our understanding of the context we are likely to be living in. So much so, we have little if any time to ‘sweat the small stuff’.
Of course, we need to laudably and necessarily monitor the big picture. But there’s a gap; this gap sits between broad strategic sweeps and day to day activity. It is the small stuff which affects our every activity; the small stuff which dictates how we do things. This small stuff guides us in our interactions, minute by minute, hour by hour.
Most of these small-stuff factors influence the development of an organisation far more than broad strategic sweeping statements. Get the small-stuff wrong, and you will find it much more difficult to achieve your broad goals or vision.
Culture, or how we do things around here, really does eat strategy for breakfast, as originally quoted by Peter Drucker. Any enterprise where the leaders disconnect strategy from culture is being put at risk. As General George Patton said; “…bad tactics will destroy the best strategy.”
Of course purpose, vision, goals and strategy-building are vital. Strategy is not, however, a lofty, self-evident statement of a perfect plan. Such ‘strategies’ do not contribute much to producing results. Strategy is not sloganeering; rather a series of choices the leadership-team makes on how to maximize long-term value and create platforms for sustainable long-term futures. It is not a matter of having strategy, but of doing strategy. To do strategy, you have to sweat the small stuff; those interactions going on between employees right now in your organisation.
You cannot achieve good results without having good execution. Doing strategy each day, with activities aligned through specific objectives supporting broad goals, helps making much clearer and more coherent choices about what to do and how to do it over the next few hours as well as the next few months.
For sure, the quality of your execution and how you sweat the small stuff will depend on the quality of your strategy and how well this is communicated and cascade through agreed specific objectives and how these are monitored, measured and developed over time.
You need good strategy to have good execution. You need to sweat the small stuff to have good execution. Your route to effective-execution depends on how well the strategy is understood by everyone and how they act every minute of the working day, affecting how they interact with each other, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders.
If the enterprise is not operating the way you would like it to be working, remember to sweat the small stuff as well as reviewing purpose, vision and broad goals; are specific-objectives in-place and is there an effective culture throughout the enterprise driven by normalised values.
Mike Orlov is passionate about interactions between people, facilitating the release of an individual’s potential and propositions between teams, divisions and companies; the key focus is creating alignment among individuals and developing value-driving operations
Having completed an MBA in 2004, achieving a Distinction and invited to study for an executive PhD, I underpin my extensive commercial experience in Europe and the GCC with a robust business academic foundation and am committed to building partnerships and continuous learning. I am also a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management (FInstLM)
Balancing intellectual rigour with an experienced and practical approach, I have been a publisher of magazines, ran a national newspaper advertisement sales team in the UK, held a board directorship at the London Evening Standard and been a director of one of Northern & Shell's businesses
Before becoming a partner at SSG, I launched media brands in Dubai, was Chief Performance Officer for News Group International and was the Chief Executive at Primedia International, with offices across the GCC
I am a leadership and management transformation and change agent, facilitator, mentor, business coach, trainer, public speaker, presenter, story-teller and a published business author with a weekly column in a daily newspaper and a regular business magazine slot.