Working and Managing Strategically – Clean-Up, the Missing 4th Step
I want to address the activity that constructs the 4th step or leg under the table in working strategically. In so doing I’d like to respond to the question from the previous blog, “If you wanted your organization to use technology and manage information more strategically… What are the simple, daily steps?
Traditionally, people call to mind the phrase “Ready, Aim, Fire” to think of acting strategically. It’s also common to reverse the order of the last two words (Ready, Fire, Aim) to describe a non-strategic way of working.
These constructs work well and also miss a very important fourth step. By-the-way, the fourth step can be different activities in different situations, but it always comes back to this core concept that there’s always something fundamental to do after you complete the action step of “Fire” or the 3rd leg under the table.
So what are you supposed to do after you complete the action step referred to as “Fire”?
Maybe I could refer to it as the “Clean-Up” step. The fourth step can comprise activities such as: follow-up, check back, write an inquiry, document what happened, measure or verify results, confirm if it worked, check on the historical trends, compare to previous month or year, etc. It varies widely based upon the work being done, and some times it’s just as the term describes, “clean up and put everything away to be ready for next”… but it always exists.
Three things that stand out to me about the “Clean-Up” step. Well actually a lot stands out, but here’s three things to consider, especially as it has to do with working strategically:
1. Clean-Up invariably means documenting in some fashion, taking more time in the present to document information to create leverage (information re-use and analysis) and efficiencies for the future and often for others.
2. Clean-Up is invariably more efficient if completed closely after the Fire sequence when it comes to managing information. Write it down while all that information is still floating around in your short term memory cells.
Look at this example from SeattlePi this year covering a successful improvement process by the Virginia Mason hospital in Seattle.
“… instead of doctors waiting until the end of the day to go through a stack of patient records, they now write comments and recommendations immediately after seeing the patient before going to the next one. The time saved increases the time a physician can spend with a patient. Dr. Kim Pettenger, medical director at Virginia Mason Kirkland, said most of the cost of medical care involves clogs in the flow of informaton – paper forms, lab results, phone messages, often leading to irritated patients. Working the backlog down costs more than if you never let things pile up in the first place.”
The article also adds an important side note about requiring people to complete the 4th step:…
“He (Dr. Pettenger) said not everyone has agreed with the new system and a few physicians have left Virginia Mason because of it.”
3. Clean-Up invariably annoys some people, and some people handle the annoyance by putting it off (for someone else to do or until there’s another fire), and then some people just refuse and would rather quit then complete the 4th step. People who work strategically get tremendous pay-offs from the 4th step. It’s where they move ahead, gain insights, cement relationships, and build a future instead of just deal with the present.
Bottom Line: Working Strategically involves four steps, not three. The four steps are “Ready… Aim…. Fire… Clean-Up”.
The last and fourth step is a step of investment that seems to consistently differentiate people and organizations that work strategically. So don’t fall into the group that puts off the 4th step, or worse gets annoyed by it, use it to get ahead!