How Group Attention Deficit Disorder Can Undermine Strategic Planning…

“Oh Allah! I seek Your guidance by virtue of Your knowledge, and I seek ability by virtue of Your power, and I ask You of Your great bounty. You have power; I have none. And You know; I know not. You are the Knower of hidden things.

Oh Allah! If in Your knowledge, (this matter*) is good for my religion, my livelihood and my affairs, immediate and in the future, then ordain it for me, make it easy for me, and bless it for me. And if in Your knowledge, (this matter*) is bad for my religion, my livelihood and my affairs, immediate and in the future, then turn it away from me, and turn me away from it. And ordain for me the good wherever it may be and make me content with it.– A Du’a (supplication) of the Prophet Muhammed (S).

[adapted from Genesis of New American Leadership: Building the Community Life]

“Don’t waste time setting priorities.”
—Herman Minor IV, The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective People

A man exits his home to cut his lawn. He removes the mower, starts it and gets about half way down one side when he notices some loose caulking at the front window. He stops the mower, goes into the garage and exits the home again to fix the window; as he’s applying the caulking, he notices loose screws in the gutter, and figures he can return to the caulking after he gets the screws tightened.

He goes back in the garage and pulls out a ladder and a screwdriver. He positions the ladder, starts to climb and while he’s fixing the gutter, he notices a few shingles loose atop the roof. He stops fixing the gutter and directs his attention to the roof, when he notices his neighbor’s roof also has a few shingles loose.

He has a mind to go over and volunteer to help his neighbor, but suddenly it starts to rain. He quickly descends, grabs all of his equipment and runs in the garage. He will take care of it another day. A few minutes later his wife arrives and says, “Honey, I thought you said you were going to cut the lawn while I was shopping.”

The man above has excellent intentions and the right tools; he is expending energy on problems, but is he accomplishing goals?

He has competing demands, limited time and financial resources and always operating under external constraints over which he often has little or no direct control. Now replace the man with your institution and the above homeowner functions with the internal and external functions of your institution.

Among a cemetery, an institutional newsletter, elder services outreach and interfaith conferences, which goal takes precedence? Moreover, on a day to day or week to week basis, what tasks should be accomplished to tactically sustain and strategically advance your institution?

The answers are found by asking more specific, organizational-dependent questions such as: What are the missions of your institution and what are its goals? For a mosque, with certainty the answers to these questions will be the same and yet different for every Islamic institution not only in America, but throughout the world.

A mosque in Kosovo or on the West Bank of the Gaza Strip will have different needs and face different circumstances and challenges than a mosque in Dakar, Senegal; Staten Island, New York; or Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The discrete organizational tasks, objectives and corresponding implementation vary with the nature (basic missions), complexity and resources of the organization, and this fact is true of all organizations, whether the entity is a masjid, church, synagogue, temple, school, hospital, business, military base, local or state municipality or a country. The decisions for the allocation of resources and prioritization of group efforts are complex.

If methods for managing the complexity are not implemented, the organization will suffer from group attention deficit disorder–easily derailed by the immediacy of temporary circumstances or newly identified wants, rather than remaining focused on appropriate goals and a comprehensive strategic vision.

Tip: Respect the group intellect. Begin allocating resources from the inside out…that is charity begins at home. Don’t continually overlook the needs of those already inside the institution while expending inordinate resources to attract those outside the institution.

Left open for further thought and research…Peace until next time.

Sincerely & respectfully,

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Editor’s Note: This post has been updated from its original posting for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

About Mukhtar Muhammad

Mukhtar Muhammad is author of the critically acclaimed Genesis of New American Leadership: A Muslim Commentary...the first socio-political and religious commentary on the tenets of effective leadership based on the principles of Islam, the commentary of contemporary religious scholars and American management philosophy. The recipient of numerous academic, professional, and military achievement awards, the former enlisted & commissioned naval officer is the product of a visionary leadership that recognizes the "Muslim American dream" is deeply rooted in the American Dream of not only "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” but also "one nation under G-d indivisible with liberty and justice for all." The company vice president, national speaker and management consultant and national non-profit executive director holds bachelors and masters degrees in four business concentrations including systems management, marketing, business management and human resources development and has served at the highest levels of leadership for the American Muslim Community.
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