Video Transcript

00:09 Robert Kaplan: Vision alone is not enough, okay? You gotta do one other thing. You've got to then decide, and I would argue, when I say you need to ask questions, asking just once three years ago is not gonna cut it. You gotta ask this question regularly. What's our vision? Is this still how we add value based in our... And is this still the distinctive competence or competencies that are critical for us to have? And number two, what are the three to five top priorities we must do well, and I'll explain this more, if we're gonna deliver that value and build that distinctive competence? Now every company uses different terminology, here's mine. What do I mean by a priority? I mean, what are the key tasks that you must do extraordinarily well?

01:07 Kaplan: Here's an example, customer service might be a key task you must do extremely well. Innovation might be a key priority or key task you must do extremely well. Developing customer relationships, where you really, really understand the needs of your customer, so that you can adapt your product and your service to fit their needs. That might be a key priority. Here's the problem. You can have 10 things on your to-do list, but I would argue as a leader, you can't have 10 priorities. In fact, worst than that, seven or 10 priorities is the same as zero priorities.

01:50 Kaplan: Why? 'Cause human beings can't focus on 10 things at once. My question is, what do you wanna spend the marginal hour on? And I would argue, great businesses pick three, or four, or five, even though they may be trying to do other things, they pick the top three, or four, or five. That involves making trade-off decisions. So I'll talk to lots of businesses and I'll say, "Okay, what are your top priorities?" And they say, "Well, we wanna be highest quality, lowest price, quickest delivery, best service, most... " No, not gonna work. You have to choose. If you really wanna be highest quality, you're not gonna be the lowest... You gotta choose. And for some of you, you actually don't force yourself to choose your top three, or four, or five, and the act of forcing yourself to decide what they are, forces you to make choices.

02:51 Kaplan: For example, what kind of people are you gonna hire? Okay? This is a very critical decision. You wanna attract, retain, and develop superb people? Elite people? That's a choice. Does that fit your business? Or you may say, "No, that does not fit our business. We can afford to have one or two of those kind of people, but everybody else needs to be more modestly paid." That's a decision and then you've gotta go execute it. What's your decision? And the reason it's important as the leader, your entire life, I would argue, whether you see it this way or not, as a leader what you're doing is articulating a vision, how you add value based on what distinctive competence, you're picking your three, or four, or five top priorities, and the rest of your life is spent aligning everything you do in the organization, including how you spend your time to achieving that vision and accomplishing those priorities. If you haven't clearly decided upfront what the vision is, and what the priorities are, how the hell you're supposed to know how you're gonna make all of these decisions in aligning your organization?

04:05 Kaplan: So I would... Can you right now... How many of you can right now write down your top three? And how many of you need to go think about it? I would urge you to do that. A lot of it may get into... It may force you to do the following: You're probably gonna have to think more about customer segmentation, I would betcha, in order to answer this question, you may have to think more about who you're hiring and what are your criteria for who you're hiring. It may make you think about your compensation philosophy. It's gonna cause you... It's gonna force you to think about a lot of issues. And my guess is, you're not gonna be able to answer these questions without interviewing some of your customers and probably interviewing some of your people.

04:52 Kaplan: And by the way, your people are dying for you to make these choices because if you have not narrowed down to three, or four, or five priorities, I can just tell you right now, your people don't know what you want them to do. They don't know. And for those of you here, which a number of you are working 70 hours a week, and can't understand why you're doing this all alone, and you can't understand as you're growing, you can't build your team, this is part of why. Part of the thing that helps you build a team and manage growth is being clear about how we add value, distinctive competence, here are three, or four, or five priorities. It's worth you spending some time to clarify this, and then again, over communicate it. Can your people repeat back to you, here are the top three, or four, or five?