3 Ways To Quarantine The Whirlwind In Your Work

If you ignore the urgent, it can kill you today. If you ignore the important, it can kill you tomorrow.
— Chris McChesney

This isn't a new topic here at TommyBowman.com - after hearing Christ McChesney at the Global Leadership Summit in 2016 I made drastic changes to the focus of our team's work at Mission Church.

In all organizations, there are things you act on and things that act on you. The things that act on you are the urgent but rarely important things. This is the Whirlwind. The important things are the things we need to intentionally choose to work on. These are our Wildly Important Goals.

The Whirlwind brings complexity, and goals requires simplicity. @@Anyone can do complex. Simple take discipline.@@

When it comes to the Whirlwind, there are a few important things to understand about it:

1. It always wins: When you take a passive approach to the urgent vs. important battle, urgent always wins.

2. It's necessary: You can't completely eliminate the whirlwind. Nor should you. If you could, you would have by now.

3. It's more exciting: There's a reason achieving your wildly important is referred to as a discipline. The whirlwind has a way faster payoff. Being attracted to the whirlwind doesn't make you a bad person - it makes you a normal person.

The last way to think about Whirlwind is like this: eliminate every single goal in your organization and imagine all the work your team will still be busy with - this is your whirlwind.

So if you can't eliminate it and you can't starve it what do we do?? We manage it and quarantine it. Here's how:

1. Name It

It's time you start calling it what it is. When you were a child you learned what was right relative to what was wrong. Similarly, we begin to identify wildly important work when we begin to name the whirlwind we are doing.

My team, during their morning checkins, does this daily. They always name whether or not they are focusing on WIG (Wildly Important Goal) work or Whirlwind work. And no one is ashamed to name the Whirlwind work - it's necessary. But it needs to be kept in check. 

2. Equate It

Let's just say we work 50 hours a week and spend 120 minutes in Staff Meetings when your entire (or most of your) team is present. What if every minute of every staff meeting was reflected in 25 minutes of work for your team? So, what you talk about for 6 minutes in your Staff Meeting is going to get an hour of work. It's not perfect but my point is when every minute of you Staff Meeting(s) goes to the Whirlwind, why wouldn't every hour of the week go to the Whirlwind?

We discuss the Whirlwind for 30 minutes a week at the close of our week and discuss the Wildly Important for 60 minutes at the outset of our week. If urgent always wins the war then this shift in balance in our meetings has promoted more time spent on the Wildly Important.

3. Test it

We think the operational whirlwind needs a meeting with entire staff. I'm not so sure it does. When we adopted 4 Disciplines of Execution we kept a Whirlwind Meeting for whirlwind topics. I quickly found that almost all whirlwind items involve only 2-3 people and not the whole team. What happened was we eliminated our weekly, 1 hour, operational staff meeting. It's gone. 

Here's how you do that:

  1. Tell your team you'll be collecting agenda items for your meeting (if you're not already).
  2. Review the list and identify who is needed for each agenda item.
  3. Help to set those meetings up for the required people. 
  4. Cancel the standing operational meeting.
  5. Be ready for the looks of shock and horror followed by relief and gratitude.

I'll stop here for today in the event that I've challenged everything you've ever known about work. Maybe this quote will help in closing...

To achieve a goal you have never achieved before, you must start doing things you have never done before.
— 4 Disciplines of Execution

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Would you like to know more about the Wildly Important for your team? I can help! I love helping leaders lead towards the wildly important of vision achievement. Check out my Coaching page to get started today.