"NO" Is Not A 4-Letter Word

The Unexpected Focusing Power of No / CACtackk.07

Focus is one of the most important requirements for any start-up enterprise to succeed. Sounds simple enough, right — but anybody who has ever been in a start-up recognizes there are always more things to do than time to do them. And often the tyranny of the urgent overtakes the discipline of strategic execution.

Harvard professor Michael Porter, who many regard as the father of modern business strategy, has noted that “strategy is what we don’t do.” By that he doesn’t mean most of us don’t engage in strategy, but instead that it is precisely what we “choose” not to do — what we say “no” to — that often determines the quality of our strategic focus (and our success) in the end.

For years I’ve told the teams I lead something similar; that at the heart of great strategy is sacrifice. In both cases, the point is that being capable and willing to “not do things” is as important, and sometimes much more important, than what things one does do. Constantly assessing our time and tasks against clearly articulated and measurable milestones is how we make progress and avoid death by distraction. Remember, volume in and of itself, is no virtue when it comes to succeeding in a start-up enterprise.

Action, not motion, is what will determine success.