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Is It a Great Opportunity or a Big Distraction?

Every organization has opportunities knocking at their door. In fact, opportunities are usually plentiful.

The challenge is knowing whether an opportunity is really a distraction in disguise.

Too often, our enthusiasm short circuits our ability to objectively evaluate which opportunities are truly worth pursuing.

To help you differentiate between opportunity and distraction, answer these 10 questions:

1. Does it match your organizational DNA?

The longer I lead, the more I realize the importance of protecting organizational DNA. Your DNA consists of your vision, values and culture. Everyone has an idea (usually many ideas), but not everyone has infused the organization’s DNA into their thinking. In fact, when confronted with the DNA, people often find “creative” ways to make their ideas fit. When every idea fits, the DNA is unclear or tainted.

2. Is it aligned with your core competencies?

Every leader and every organization has specific areas of strength and passion. An organization’s core competencies are the leverage points for opportunity. If there’s misalignment between opportunities, strengths and passions, the organization will work twice as hard but only deliver half the results. Stay true to your organizational DNA. Understanding yourself is one of the most crucial steps to understanding your opportunities.

3. Does it present growth or impact potential? 

The opportunity must demonstrate clear potential for growth or impact in or through the organization. Growth might include things such as customers, sales, finances or market share. Impact might include life change, community transformation, or resolving a problem or meeting a need. If the opportunity isn’t contributing to growth or impact, what value do you see in the opportunity?

4. Do you have sustainable resource capacity?

Every opportunity comes with a cost. That cost usually involves at least three resources: time, money and people. If you don’t have all three, your opportunity may very well turn into an extended nightmare. Or, you may need to determine how you can secure the resources without jeopardizing the organization. Keep in mind that resource capacity includes both the launch and the sustainability of the opportunity. The last thing you want to do is start but not finish.

5. Does it pass the two-dimension timing test? 

The timing test must be viewed from two angles. First, is it the right time right now? Some opportunities are the right opportunities, but they’ve shown up a few months too early. Resist the temptation to jump too soon, and develop a system to revisit the opportunity in the near future. Second, does the opportunity pass the seven-day, 30-day or 90-day test? It’s very easy to get infatuated with an idea. If you’re not careful, this leads to vision whiplash for your team as you jump from one great idea to another. In most cases, you should give an opportunity a testing window. Sit on it for a few days (or even a few weeks), and see if your passion for the idea grows stronger or quickly fades. In those rare cases where opportunities must be seized quickly, carefully answer the other questions.