One of the hallmarks of disciplined strategic execution is the ability to consistently prioritize the important above the urgent. Unfortunately, it’s a rare ability.

We see this most prominently in the execution of quarterly objectives. The leadership team will get together for an all day quarterly planning meeting. Collectively they will think through the objectives that are most likely to drive the company forward. Agreement will be reached on the most critical objectives necessary for the coming quarter. We call these Critical Success Initiatives.

Then a funny thing happens. When we reconvene at the end of the quarter we find lackluster, at best, success in the completion of quarterly initiatives. What was once thought of as critical to the success of the business gets pushed aside in the tumult of day-to-day activity. Sometimes leaders struggle to remember why they ever thought something was important in the first place.

It is absolutely true that things can come up which instantly shift our priorities. An unexpected acquisition opportunity, an unplanned transition of key leadership, forces beyond our control such as new legislation that impacts the industry. But these are rarely the reason for failure to meet quarterly objectives. By far the most common culprit is tyranny of the urgent.

My encouragement is to keep first things first. It’s a key leading indicator to success.