How to Identify and Prevent SOS (Shiny Object Syndrome)

  • MSP+OS Team
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    MSP+OS Team

  • October 31, 2023
  • 2 minute read

Today we’re talking about shiny object syndrome.

While SOS may sound exciting, it isn’t the best thing for your company’s productivity.

This post will outline what shiny object syndrome is, how you can identify it, and how you and your team can prevent it from taking over your company.

What Is Shiny Object Syndrome?

SOS consists of ideas or tasks that could be completed next week—but that for some reason you want done today.

You might think of it as growth at the expense of meeting current targets.

It’s a form of overstimulation. And shiny object syndrome almost always involves introducing services or implementing solutions at an inconvenient time or place.

Example 1: Steven wants to attend a conference. It starts next Monday, but he just found out about it. It wouldn’t hurt if he registered at the last minute, right?

Example 2: Zara just got back from IT Nation. An industry leader spoke about a new SAAS product that sounded amazing—and she wants to start selling it immediately!

See the sense of urgency in these examples? There’s a lack of accountability there. Ideas need to be implemented in a mature way.

The Pitfalls of a Good Idea

What’s wrong with a good idea?

Nothing—but great ideas need to be developed. They need to be thought through.

Implementation must be feasible, and with SOS, someone will suffer as a result of the inherent fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach: clients, employees, or vendors.

Because with shiny object syndrome, people don’t have the ability to be productive or efficient.

There’s a lack of self-control—a sense of tunnel vision—and simply no insight into the power of shutting up.

And, let us tell you, there’s real power in shutting up.

How Can We Identify and Prevent SOS?

How can executives identify when they’re experiencing SOS?

If you’re growing too fast, this could be a sign of shiny object syndrome. You have to be able to zoom out and look at your business holistically. And when you realize that a solid chunk of your time has nothing to do with your corporate objectives, you’ll notice that something is wrong.

The best way for owners to identify SOS in their business is to document their objectives and standardize their KPIs.

From there, you can implement the following tips for preventing SOS:

Limit your direct reports.
The bigger your company gets, the farther removed you are from the people who work for you. To keep your corporate goals in check, try to limit your direct reports to just seven to 15 people.

Prioritize people management.
Maybe your owner is an engineer; maybe they’re in sales and partnered with an engineer. Regardless, neither of these people is (likely) trained in people management. Try to change this if at all possible.

Maintain defined roles within the company.
Avoid delegating tasks to the wrong people. Don’t hire an engineer as a project manager, for instance. Without defining each person’s role, you could be inadvertently encouraging shiny object syndrome.

Jot down your shiny objects.
The next time you want to share a shiny object, simply write it down. You can keep a list and review your ideas once each quarter. Then, after careful consideration, you can tackle the ones that still look viable after some time has passed.

With these insights, you can start to identify what triggers shiny object syndrome in your business—and work to overcome it.

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