Internal forces command our attention. External forces make us successful.

Internal forces are loud. External forces are silent.

When external forces are ignored, we use speculation, assumption, or the highest paid opinion to make decisions.

Internal forces put everyone, at every level of an organization, at risk of drowning in a sea of busy-ness.

External forces that govern our effectiveness are things like:

  • Customer preferences
  • Competitive landscape
  • Economic conditions
  • Technological advances
  • Natural environmental conditions
  • Legal requirements
  • Talent availability
  • Icebergs

Each of these external forces is outside of our control, and each one is potentially about to blindside us while we’re busy debating, speculating, working to achieve 98% efficiency, or mastering Inbox Zero.

The higher we rise in an organization, the more internal forces inadvertently work to derail us. Emails, meeting requests, clarifications, approvals, rework, politics, and people drama all scream for our attention, while the giant billboard pointing the way to success quietly sits right outside our office window.

Provided our goal is clear, having the right systems in place ensures we keep our attention on what matters most. 

We can see these sort of systems at work in Amazon, where Jeff Bezos has labored to ingrain his “Day 1” philosophy into the environment and how work gets done.

An iceberg didn’t sink the Titanic (or Kodak, or Blockbuster Video, or Blackberry, or Lehman Brothers), a lack of systems for keeping everyone focused on what matters most did.

Feature photo by Trevor Cole on Unsplash