Every leader stands to benefit from the opportunity to regularly review with outsiders what s/he seeks to do, what has been done to do it, what has happened and what has been learned so far, and what s/he plans to do next.
It is harder to set up, operate, and benefit from outside help than it may first appear. Click on the image accompanying this post for a slide presentation of lessons learned and best practices that, if followed, will lead to improved performance and growth thanks to help from Accountability Board Members and Subject Matter Experts.
Assign a single capable person to serve as Project Manager (PM) responsible for the entire project through to completion if one is not already assigned or if the one assigned has proven ineffective. The PM should be someone who has previously been successful in similar circumstances in terms of project scope, scale, and complexity. If someone with requisite experience is not available to serve as PM then arrange for the experienced person to serve as a close adviser to the PM until a new plan is in place and performance relative to the new plan is on track.
Have the PM work with the client, the project team, management, and advisers to pull together a revised plan.Review the plan thoroughly with the PM, the project team, and with outside stakeholders, including the client, to be sure the path to completion, all the way through to client acceptance, is well formulated, understood, agreed to, and sensible.
Leaders whose direct reports submit regular (e.g., monthly) status reports on progress, problems, and plans should consider re-working their approach to include more frequent (e.g., bi-weekly), one-on-one, real-time (in person or via the Web) meetings to discuss submitted progress reports and to collaborate and align on how things are going, priorities, and next steps. Specifically, top leaders ask each direct report to prepare andsubmit a day or so ahead of meeting one-on-one:
An update on progress since last time including a read-out of measures previously agreed upon to track progress.
A list of the top three or so things s/he is working on, and for each:
What s/he seeks to accomplish
What has been done so far to accomplish it
What has happened as a result of what has been done so far
What has been learned from above
What s/he plans to do next.
What s/he needs from their leaders and/or from others in the organization to be successful.
Many intelliven.com blog posts are based on the slides and lecture notes from a masters class in Organization Development called Organization Analysis and Strategy offered at American University and taught by Peter DiGiammarino. These posts and other material from class, including:
Slide shows, and
will be offeredlater this Spring at www.intelliven.com as an interactive digital workbook calledManage to Lead: Seven Truths to Help You Change the Worldavailable on the iPad, iPhone, Mac or PC powered by Inkling the leading platform for interactive higher education textbooks. Print and electronic copies will also be available on amazon.com.
Workbook content is searchable and findable on the web using Google. One chapter will be available at no charge and selected chapters may be purchased separately The entire workbook can also be purchased along with appendixes and answers to work problems. Future updates and enhancements will forever be automatically pushed to purchasers at no additional charge.
Whether one wants to change personal habits, implement a new information system, improve a business process, get team members to work together, increase a community’s appreciation for diversity, or even to topple a monarchy, taking seven actions driven by seven disarmingly simple truths will individually and collectively help achieve the goal.
Manage to Lead presents a framework to describe and assess any organization. It also provides a structured approach to plan and implement next steps for an organization as it strives for long-term growth and performance.
Readers are invited to select a familiar organization on which to apply the tools and templates introduced throughout the workbook. Exercises in each chapter produce essential elements for the organization’s annual strategic plan and lay the groundwork for implementing that plan.
Readers can package the key elements from Organization Exercises to form a strategic plan that communicates how the organization sees itself and where it is headed. At the end of the year leaders can compare actual results with what was described in the strategic plan to study what happened, why what happened was different than plan, what is to be learned from that, and what to do differently going forward as a result.
Repeat the process over several years and compare actual to planned results year-to-year to see the organization mature, perform, and grow to its full potential.
It is impossible to control what you cannot, and what you do not, measure. For every important thing that the organization does, decide what is most important to monitor and then watch carefully to know how things are going.
If what to monitor is not known then:
Watch everything and whittle away what turns out to not be useful and keep watching what turns out to be useful.
Study similar organizations to learn what they track.
Look up industry analysts and market researchers to find out what they watch.
Those briefing and those reviewing should keep in mind that all risks are not created equal. Some have a higher probability of occurring and some have a greater impact if they do occur. It is a waste to spend a lot of time thinking about and discussing risks that can theoretically happen but that, in reality, are unlikely to occur.
Instead, leaders and their top teams should spend their time discussing mitigation steps and contingency plans principally for risks that have a high probability of occurring and a large negative impact if they do occur.
One of the leader’s most important jobs is to get and stay clear about what it is that he or she is counting on from each team member. Once the leader is clear, the message must be communicated to the team member. Often, the leader fails to engage in a rich communication apparently in favor of assuming that team members are somehow supposed to figure out for themselves exactly what is expected of them.
Click the photo below to watch a five-minute video of a supervisor and team member making many common mistakes that make it tough for things to come out right:
The steps detailed in this post make explicit a conversation that otherwise plays-out inside of the heads of those involved. When the conversation is explicit the leader and team member get on the same page and dramatically increase the odds of high-performance and fulfilled expectations.