“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

Peter Drucker

Organizational effectiveness requires that people are doing the right things well. Doing the right things poorly is probably an opportunity for coaching. Doing the wrong things well is, as Drucker points out, useless.

A colleague and I recently had a good discussion about strategy. He has a client organization that’s doing many things very well, but the question of “what” they should be doing is murky because they confuse budgeting and planning with strategy. 

Without a clear direction (e.g., vision and strategy), good people will do something, but it’s impossible that everyone will focus on aligned activities. Some head east, and some head west, and that’s useless. The one who pulls hardest on the rope wins, but what’s a win? Most CEOs whom I know would never say they want to “promote random behavior and hope for a positive return on capital.” That’s stupid! Yet many allow it. Many people working efficiently towards disparate objectives is not organizational effectiveness, it’s chaos. 

Most CEOs whom I know would never say they want to “promote random behavior and hope for a positive return on capital.”

Clarity of vision and strategy is the CEO’s cross to bear. If you’re a CEO and the people in your organization don’t know where you’re going or, in general, what you’ll do to get there, you’re screwing up.

That doesn’t mean you must come up with the answers yourself. You can, and most likely should, involve others in answering those questions. But you, and you alone, need to make sure the answers to those questions exist! 

The second lesson from Drucker’s missive is also important. If you’re a CEO and you’re doing things that others could do better and more effectively, you’re not a positive force in the organization — you’re a boat anchor! Look for those people and delegate responsibility rather than cling to some irrelevant skill set. Spend your time ensuring that the questions above are answered and that capital and people are aligned with those responses. That’s a CEO’s job.