Lazy CEOs have a different way of running projects than most of us. What they do, in a nutshell, is to assess the critical factors that determine whether a project will be successful or not and test them as quickly as possible. This allows them to kill doomed projects early and to then reinvest time, energy, and resources in those projects that will be successful. While that might sound like simple common sense, it's something that very few business leaders practice. In fact, the playbook Lazy CEOs use can be universally applied to everything from new product launches and serving offerings to decisions about acquiring companies.

So what's their secret?

What Lazy CEOs have figured out is that you need to ditch the traditional approach to project management in favor of first identifying and resolving the critical point of constraint that will make or break any new project you undertake.

You know how most projects get started: someone creates a project plan and a Gantt chart that stretches out months into the future showing the order everything needs to be done in. You have line items for, say, tackling the marketing and branding, setting up a website, and logging everything into your accounting system. Poorly planned projects have a very risky element late in the project.

But what happens when, after you execute on that plan, and the project fails? You lose an enormous amount of time, energy, and resources that could have been prevented if you had resolved certain key issues up front.

If you run a service business, for example, what questions would you need to get answers to before you invested in launching a new offering? The first question might be whether the new offering would solve a need for your customers. Question two could be whether you have the talent, or can find it, with the skills to offer the new service. Third, you would need to know whether you could make a profit by offering such a service. If these three things are not true, the project should be killed--immediately.

A Lazy CEO will do everything possible to get answers to these questions as quickly as possible as a way to assess whether the project is even worth pursuing. The goal is to eliminate the knowable risks as soon as possible. Sure, you'll inevitably run into some unforeseen potholes. But if you can resolve the most critical issues right up front, you will increase your odds of success by orders of magnitude.

To do that, after making sure you have the right people on board, you might first prove that the new service meets a need by signing up a pilot customer. Then, by working with that customer, you can figure out whether you can deliver the service at a price point that makes financial sense to your business. You might even be willing to lose some money on that initial project because of the valuable intelligence you're getting from that experience.

The point is that by making a small up front investment in time, energy, and resources, you can determine quickly whether this project is worth further investment in things like marketing and publicity. If the numbers make sense, you can then double down on that investment. But if the project doesn't look promising, pull the plug ASAP and move onto the next one. This is how Lazy CEOs make the most of their own time and resources.

Case in point: a friend of mine recently acquired a fitness facility. And when he went about evaluating whether to buy the business or not, he boiled the decision down to a single metric: the gym's membership. As it turns out, most gyms are about the same. There's no real difference between what kind of equipment they have, or the lease they operate with, or even the caliber of the coaches on staff. What makes or breaks the success of a gym is its ability to acquire new members and to retain their current ones. That's why my friend spent 80% of his due diligence process up front on learning everything he could about the membership situation with this gym. Once he was comfortable with that, he could make his decision and move onto things like negotiating the lease.

What Lazy CEOs like my friend do is figure out the key point of constraint to success as quickly as possible as a way to make the best possible decisions. If you can do that, you'll have more time, energy, and resources to invest in successful projects of all kinds.

Jim is the author of the best-selling book, "Great CEOs Are Lazy". Grab your copy on Amazon!

Published on: Jun 7, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.