Doing the Right Things

A management’s role is to achieve its purpose. The purpose could be anything depends upon the type of the organization. Usually, the purpose of a manufacturing unit is to earn more profit now and then. For hospitals, it is providing health services and for institutions, it is offering education. To achieve the purpose, managers need to direct and control the operation both in short term and long term. But most of the people in the management or in leadership role finding it very difficult to manage both roles together. They spend an enormous amount of time managing the urgent activities that require their immediate attention. It is like attending to a crying baby. We can’t escape from it. If a manager not thinking and acting in terms of long-term achievement, they often fail in their career progress. It is like walking on a thin rope with a long stick balancing both long-term and short-term goals together.

Typically, a manager’s short-term goal is to cut back on costs or investments, maximizing efficiency, focus on short-term profit, etc. this is to ensure a smooth current performance. The long-term goal is making investments, allow protective capacity, focus on profit, etc. this is to ensure long-term prosperity (1). Managers must play a balanced role within a limited time. This has been a challenge for them.

This article provides you methods to identify the area where managers’ involvement is required in day-to-day operations (making money now) and how to involve themselves in the long-term goal (making money in the future). For simplicity, the methods are explained by keeping a manufacturing unit in mind. However, the same methods can be applicable to all types of organizations irrespective of their nature. Also, you can replace the word manager with management to get the complete picture.

A manager’s attention is a resource. This resource is often not recognized as important as physical resources. One of the major reasons for this could be our inability to understand the importance of focusing on one thing at a time and things that matter most to the system (constraints). Every manager intuitively wants to manage and take control of everything coming under his scope. They often feel a sense of accomplishment as they are involved in day-to-day activities. As it gives immediate results within a short time they do more and more.

“I would estimate that about 80% of top management is absorbed in firefighting.” – Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt

It is very clear that a manager’s attention is required on the core problems of the organization. But it is very difficult to find a manager to constantly devote his time to ‘thinking’ on solving the core problem. Long-term thinking requires a discipline of understanding the whole system as one entity, believe in the principle that the entire system is controlled by very few key elements, and desire to identify those key elements using logical thinking. It requires patience, consistent thinking of cause and effect relationships, and devoting uninterrupted time.

 “Effective management is putting first thing first. While leadership decides what “first things” are, it is management that puts them first, day-by-day, moment-by-moment. Management is discipline, carrying out.” – Stephen R Covey

Putting first thing first means saying no to the remaining things. Because people tendency is to try and improve everything. All the problems are not worth solving. So, the first step to obtain focus is to stop doing what is not important. Manager’s attention must be focused on what is really dictating the organization ability to achieve more goal and removing significant limitation (3).

Managers Attention Wastes

The above image exhibits the relationship between the assignments taken by the manager vs. the time wasted by doing it. When the no. of tasks is low, the mangers time is wasted by underutilization. As the no. if assignments are increased, the focus is distracted, and more time is getting wasted. The managers should be assigned with limited assignments one can handle effectively.

The second step is that managers avoid dealing with symptoms instead of core problems to the organization (3). The correct way to identify the core problem of the system is to find the causes of the symptoms and keep asking whys to go deeper and deeper until finding the very few causes that creating all other symptoms. To find out the causes one must commit to devoting his time constantly thinking logically and challenging the assumptions radically. This will help them to find out breakthrough innovations.


In a single word, the whole theory of constraints can be expressed as ‘Focus’. It helps the organization to focus where the maximum performance is limited by a resource or a policy. It is called constraints. Constraints are limiting the performance of the entire system. By elevating and subordinating the constraints one can increase the system performance to the maximum. So, the key to the manager’s role in identifying the constraints in the organization and focus on them to improve performance. For this, a mangers attention is required on key elements.