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What Are The 3 Keys to Implementing with Success

August 07, 2014
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How many initiatives are you in charge of initiating? I bet you have several, most people in management do. Here’s a pithier question. How do they typically end up?  What does the End of the Trail look like?  How many initiatives, or change efforts have you initiated and worked hard at, but they ended up getting derailed? That’s a tough one isn’t it, because having initiatives derailed saps your enthusiasm and engagement.

Did you know that people and organizations that are good at implementing sustain twice the value some two years later from what they implemented, as compared with the rest? Would you like to know what the top 3 actions are that more successful implmentors take, versus poor implementors? Keep reading, as McKinsey just posted a study that will help answer that question. But first something McKinsey didn’t point out.

Rodney Brim’s – What to Avoid

I just came out of intensely working a series of initiatives for a multi-national company which highly illustrates two themes that pervade teams that don’t do well with successfully generating value from the initiatives they embark on. McKinsey didn’t cover them in their research, so I’m sharing them with you, let’s see if you recognize them in others… or your self.

  1. The first thing poor implementors do is over-emphasize information gathering. They spend too much time in this phase and gather too much information. That is they typically struggle to synthesize or root cause all of the information gathered, and worse, it gets directed next to a… drum roll… report. That’s right when we gather too much information, we tend to put it into a report, not a project plan.  Reports tend to elicit more conversation and more meetings, not action, and the initiative slows to a crawl. It’s almost palpable at this point, as execution begins to fade into “next” quarter and in fact many initiatives don’t get beyond this stage. They get left in the starting gate, as more pressing issues emerge to steal the focus away.  Don’t confuse getting informed with getting started.  The first is preparatory, the second is where you create value.
  2. Here’s a second thing to avoid, and it’s pervasive in people and organizations that struggle, whether they are small or large. In a word, it’s whip-saw. Regularly changing the focus, to the point that it disrupts ongoing efforts. I’ve seen this be so powerful that after awhile, the only thing that sustains continuity is the ongoing schedule of meetings and more meetings. Poor implementors get off track regularly, or put another way, they don’t stick with what they started. Perhaps you describe it as chasing the next “shiny object.”  Personal disorganization or short attention span and not getting enough people around you to work what’s priority both add to the probability of disruptive focus shifts.

The combination of slow starts and quick changes in focus as new or discomforting information surfaces are the most common initiative killers that I see. So now that you know what to avoid, let’s look at the top 3 keys McKinsey found to ensure your initiatives succeed and deliver value into the future. I’m going to suggest an exercise after this, stay focused. 😉

McKinsey’s – What to Emphasize

  1. Initiatives take time and investment, sustained investment, not just for the kick-off meeting. Successful implementors devote the needed time and energy to support major change efforts. And get this, they do it to the point that it involves making personal behavior changes. That’s right, supporting a key initiative, likely means changing your daily schedule. Make it public when you do, it all helps signal that the effort is “for real.”
  2. There’s never enough time or resources, so successfully implementing a change effort requires that you allocate both based on priority. Clarifying what’s priority, and following-up on follow-through on what’s priority, keeps priorities front and center for everyone on the team. You need to work in a prioritized manner to be successful on initiatives. Without reinforcing priorities regularly, daily, the tyranny of urgent eats away at the needed time and effort.
  3. Monitor and hold accountable to both follow-through and meet performance thresholds or indicators. Accountability is both a necessary test of commitment and a necessary part of the process. If you don’t hold people accountable, who or what will? Remember, change efforts are always perceived as something over and above team members’ regular work. So if you don’t hold people accountable to follow-through on the tasks supporting the major initiative, guess where their attention goes? That’s right, back to their regular work which is already filling up their time.

DORIP Exercise

Ok, here’s a quick exercise to help you experience exactly what it’s like to work in this way. It just takes a few minutes each day for 1 week. Here are the steps:

  1. Define an outcome you would like to reach in a week and complete my Why_DORIP simple designation. e.g.
    1. Why achieve it,
    2. What’s the Defined Outcome,
    3. What are the Requirements and assumptions for achievement,
    4. What are the Issues that stand in your way, and finally
    5. What’s the Plan.
  2. Each day prioritize time in your calendar, blocking out at least 30 minutes, to work on achieving that Defined Outcome.  Assign at least one task each day to yourself or someone else to accomplish.
  3. Follow-up on each task, with the expectation that you or the person completing it will write a short summary of their follow-through.
  4. Check off each step in the plan when completed, including the conclusion, and stop and notice what it feels like.  Notice what is required to sustain and prioritize an effort for 5 days in a row. That’s the work style that’s required to successfully complete major initiatives.


Bottom Line:

Want to be in the Successful at Implementing Major Initiatives group? There are 2 things I want you to avoid when implementing key initiatives:
 1. Over-emphasize information gathering, and 2. Initiating whip-saw changes in focus or lack of sticking with it.

And 3 things to absolutely live by when investing in a change to improve performance:
1. Devoting the required time and effort, 2. Operate daily in a prioritized based work style and 3. Accountability.

Oh, and two other tips:
1. This all comes out of personal development. If you haven’t developed these skills and habits for yourself, it’s unlikely you will do well at implementing them with others – e.g. give me a call (707) 487-3000 if you don’t have a coach and let’s talk about improving your skill set.
2.Secondly I use ManagePro as my system or technology of choice to organize all of this. I don’t know where I would be without it.  Take a look at it, it makes keeping everything straight and moving forward much easier.


1 Comment. Leave new

I’m a big fan of doing weekly reviews and getting refocussed. Thanks for the post.

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