[January 03, 2014] Early last year I had the opportunity in a group of senior executives to meet with the Secretary of Defense (aka SecDef) at the Pentagon. There was a lively discussion about what was important for the United States (a guns versus butter talk) where the SecDef listed the President’s top priorities.
Most of the discussion revolved around the shrinking defense budget. In our small group, one gentleman from another U.S. government agency (3-lettered type) asked the SecDef the question, “Of all the important priorities of the President, knowing how vital they all are, and knowing we must cut back spending, which one of the top priorities would you recommend we NOT get done?”
The short version of the SecDef’s long answer was, “… that’s a great question.” That was also an early end to the meeting. Since that time, I often ask this type of question of many senior military leaders – asking them, of all the important stuff we do, what they recommend we no longer do. I never get an answer to the question. I don’t blame them for not answering because this is not easy.
None of us will be able to get all the resources we want, when we want them. This is simply an unpleasant fact in this era of unstable economies and bosses with higher priorities. It is, therefore, our responsibility to ask ourselves the question, “Of all the things that are important, what can we live without in our organizations?”
The answer is not simple. To answer this hard question requires considerable thought, discussion, and some hard work to understand what are the essential elements of success for our organization.