Is your boss asking you to aim at a moving target?

Free image by Megan Rexazin on Pixabay

Employees count on their bosses to define objectives and set priorities. When these are clear, it is usually straightforward but what can cause concern is when objectives keep changing.

These changes may stem from emergencies and unplanned developments that require the organisation to reset its priorities. One of the other reasons could be the sheer enthusiasm of your boss. In the first case, if it happens all the time, then there may be a problem elsewhere that needs to be sorted out. If it is the second, it means: You need to talk to your boss.

Now, if you are the boss: You need to ask yourself whether you are being too enthusiastic and are asking too much of your team, i.e. to change things and include new ideas very often. Without your knowledge, you may be causing disarray. Aiming at a moving target is very difficult to achieve and your team may be struggling to keep up. Just one idea can generate a lot of work, and when followed by many, too often, priorities may become unclear and workloads difficult to manage.

The same can happen when working on a project. It is best practice to start when the constraints, i.e. scope, budget, timeline and quality have been agreed upon and are clear. However, sometimes, projects start without these terms having been entirely defined or worse with continuous requests for changes. While during the life cycle of a project, it is quite common for minor changes to occur, constraints have to be well defined from onset and scope creep closely monitored. Enthusiasm from various stakeholders can also be a problem and their inputs and requests for changes may lead organisations to run into trouble because their impact on effort can be huge.

When I was working on one such project, one of the stakeholders was widely distributing ideas and requesting for a number of new things to be included. Somehow, the image that came to my mind was the “multiplication of the loaves”; was he expecting us to perform a miracle? In reality, although it was well meant, his enthusiasm was slowing down the implementation of the project.

So basically, if you feel that your boss is getting back to you with too many ideas and they are coming back at you faster than any work you can actually get done, what you can do is: Note them down, ask for confirmation on priorities and discuss the problem together.

If you are the boss, what is important is to keep some ideas on hold so that your team can get work done and focus on what is essential. If you want more results, it is best to get your first ideas up and running before starting on the rest. Bringing in new ones while things are being implemented is never good. There is a risk of creating confusion by asking people to aim at a moving target. More importantly, while they are analysing new ideas, they cannot complete what was asked of them in the first place.

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