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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

An illness that can kill your start up before it gets to 1st Base

Focus in an early stage company

I have seen the lack of focus in the ealry stage companies kill the business, as the hard won resources are squandered on a plethora of actvites that do not yieled one cent of revenue and even worse there has not be any formal scoping or devlopment plans laid out either, it is a foggy path down which the CTO has started off and there is only signs pointing to the next funding event, and no pass go and collect ££££.

What causes the lack of focus in the business and what do we do to fix it, the cause is the lack of a map leading you with milestones and checkpoints to your pot of gold, one that has been poured over by all the disiplines and your senior staff are ready to live and breath the journey along that map. There will always be speed bumps and possible detours required, but always push to get back onto the planned route. There is nothing more motivating than tieing your milestones to trade shows or conferences, this gives extra drive to make it happen as you have commited the comapanies reputaion to the making of the milestone. I am sure I hear soem folks saying that is being foolhardy, I would ask them have they made any of there objectives on time, if you do not play fo rhigh stakes you will not play to the best of your ability. You either believe in what you are doing or you do not.

So how do we get focus back in the start up, well if you do not have the other illness in the company "lack of making desicions" then it it relativly easy to get focus back on or on the correct projects. Take yourself back to the buisness plan what was it that you were going to make money with, does that still hold true, if it does then good you can move forward if not then you have to go back to square one and find out what is the goose that lays the golden egg, remember you do have investors nipping at your heels.

Once you understand what it is you have to do , be SMART about it

Specific ojective
Measurable results
Achievable objective
Realistic objective
Timeline applied to the objective.

Then break this down in to a project plan ..no need at first to have a huge microsoft project plan or Prince 2 project review, the essence is speed and visiblity,

  • Scope the main milestones
  • Work out your key actions to be taken to get to the milestone in time.
  • Make sure the resource is available or will be available
  • Diseminate the key actions to the responsible leaders to be planned in closer detail
  • Pull all the parts together define the critical steps
  • Start the teams on the tasks defined
  • Review progress against the milestones and take the corrective actions if required
The whole process should be transparent to all staff, customers and stake holders, use of a company screen saver on all PC's is a good tool to reniforce the map, showing the milestones and the progress towards them, also who owns that particular task. There should be a strong edict to all staff that they should not be working on anything else until Job 1 is completed as far as it can be. The dept. meetings which should be held on a weekly bases should be used to reinforce Job 1 concept. This is a mind set which needs to be devloped, Focus on the task that will bring in the bacon, then with what resource is left focus on the next longer term prospect.

Let me know what you think and I am open for disscusion on this important challenge in the early stage start up, Focus.



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