David Rock, in his book Quiet Leadership, explains a model to help you focus your discussions and thoughts. I’ve found it very useful so I’d like to share it with you.

The areas of focus are:

  1. Vision (e.g. What do we want to achieve? What is the goal?)
  2. Planning (e.g. What’s the plan? How do we ensure success?)
  3. Detail (e.g. What action should we take? What should we complete by next week?)
  4. Problem (e.g. What are we going to do with these customer complaints?)
  5. Drama (e.g. Why do we always fail in this?)

Generally, in work life, we tend to spend way too much time in Detail and Problem. Sometimes we might even sink as low as Drama. Would you agree?

With the help of the Choose your focus-model we can consciously focus our thoughts more on Vision and Planning. I’ve found it especially useful when facilitating meetings or workshops.

First, simply write down the focus areas on a flip chart. Explain them in the beginning of the meeting. Ask whether the participants would find it beneficial to focus on clarifying the vision and planning the work. Ask for permission to interrupt discussions when you notice that they’ve drifted out of the preselected focus areas. Asking for permission beforehand is important. When you’ve asked for permission, people accept you interrupting them.

When you notice discussions going towards details or problems, which they will at some point, simply point a finger at the flip chart containing the five focus areas. Most often that’s all you need to do. If you really do need to interrupt, I recommend you do it by asking “What is the area of focus in this discussion?”

The Choose your focus-model can also be effective in focusing your own thoughts. Spent enough time on problems today? Maybe it’s time to consider what you really want to achieve in the bigger picture?