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Friday, July 19, 2024

Focus on the Mission

Author: Mark Dixon
Monday, March 12, 2007
3:58 am

John Bock is a West Point Graduate, Colonel in the US Army Reserve and one of the best read people I know. He also happens to be one of Sun’s Software Sales Specialists with whom I work closely as we seek to deliver Sun’s software products to large communications companies.

A few weeks ago, he and I were discussing the differences in management style between the US military and modern business. He observed that despite its flaws, one outstanding element of military management style was what he called “Focus on the Mission.” We discussed how focusing on the mission at hand could foster stability and purpose amidst rapid and unpredicable change – which happens so frequently in modern business and military affairs.

Back in 1990 or 1991, I read Tom Peter’s book, “Thriving on Chaos,” which contends that all of us must learn to thrive in the midst of rapid change. That concept is certainly true, but it is easier to read and talk about change that to experience it. I believe John’s mantra to “Focus on the Mission” is probably the most valuable concept I have learned about how to cope with and manage change.

This week, I have been reading Bill George’s book “Authentic Leadership” and attending the Sun “Managing for Success” course. The most compelling part of the course was the unit on managing change. It was particularly relevant to our experience at Sun as we seek to return to a pattern of consitent profitability and growth while assimilating multiple corporate acquisitions.

In the course, as we studied the “Six Phases of the Change Process,” the “ERIBIA” method of presenting change to others and other techniques for managing change, it was very helpful to me to view these concepts through the lens of “Focus on the Mission.” As I consider rapid business changes that have affected me personally in the past six weeks, I realized that focusing on the mission at hand was the most stabilizing force I had experienced, both for me and for members of my team.

Bill George commented on “focus on the mission” this way: “It took me twenty years in business to find the right place to devote my energies – a mission-driven company named Medtronic. … It turned out to be the most important step of my career.”

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