Priority Management: Focus on the Big Rocks

Sections of this topic

    “It’s now time for a quiz.” said the speaker to a group of managers.

    He pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and carefully placed a dozen fist-sized rocks into the jar. He then asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone answered “Yes!” “Really?” he said.

    He pulled out a bucket of gravel, dumped it into the jar and shook it so that the gravel would go into the spaces between the big rocks. He smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full now?” By now they were on to him. “Probably not,” one said. “Good,” he replied.

    Next he brought out a bucket of sand and dumped it into the jar filling the spaces between the rocks and the gravel. Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and filled the jar to the brim.

    Finally, he said “Who can tell me the point of this exercise?” One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is that no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit more things into it!”

    “No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point at all. This exercise teaches this truth: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you will never get them in.

    Management Success Tip

    It is often hard to focus on the big rocks – managing key priorities – when your day is full of managing crises. Often, too much time and resources seem to be invested in the sand and gravel work of a job. Don’t get me wrong, The sand and gravel work is important. However, is it contributing to the big rocks of your department, team, company or agency.

    Readers, what are your managerial big rocks? Do you contribute every single day to moving them forward? I’d be delighted to hear from you about your successes and also your stumbling blocks.

    Do you want to develop your Management Smarts?