What Warren Buffett Can Teach Us About Strategy and Execution

When it comes to investment strategy and execution, Warren Buffett is peerless. His net worth of over $80 billion bears testament to that. And when the term “investment guru” gets thrown around, it’s his name that most often comes to mind.
Are there any lessons we can draw from him that apply to the world of organizational strategy and execution? Sure. But let’s focus on one lesson, the one thing that Buffett absolutely personifies. It’s focus.
It’s a lesson Buffett’s personal airplane pilot came to appreciate when he spoke with his boss about career priorities. Buffett asked him to go through a 3-step exercise. Let me take you through that same exercise now:
Step 1: Write down your top 10 career goals. (Buffett asked for 25, but I’ll make it easier for you.) Do this before reading Step 2.
Step 2: Now circle your top 5 goals. Do this before reading Step 3.
Step 3: Now, what should you do about the 5 goals you didn’t circle? In Buffett’s words, “Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-at-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”
Focus. For Buffett it’s defined just as much by what you choose not to do, as it is by what you do. As James Clear wrote in his article, Warren Buffet’s ‘2 List Strategy’, “Eliminate ruthlessly. Force yourself to focus. The most dangerous distractions are the ones you love, but that don’t love you back. Even neutral behaviors aren’t really neutral. They take up time, energy, and space that could be put toward better behaviors or more important tasks.”
Buffett’s focus on focus is legendary. He doesn’t allow himself to get distracted by the irrelevant. And he doesn’t mind missing out – as he did with the dot.com boom (and subsequent bust) – because he is willing to stay true to his investment philosophy.
That approach to investing applies equally well to organizational strategy and execution. Focus on the few. Be crystal clear on the things you’d like to do but won’t do. Stay true to the philosophy that underlies your chosen focus.
Focus. That’s a lesson you can bank on.
Make it happen.
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