Over the last 2 months I’ve received the national plans or national objectives from 70 different countries for our organization, along with plans from 11 regional leadership teams. This is a record for us. So, what next?
These plans vary from a summary of the philosophy of their work, to short list of objectives, through lists of key action items, to comprehensive lists of key actions with dates, resources and finances allocated. However, the important thing is not the plan, but the execution of the plan.
So, if you are a leader, how are you going to ensure that the plan gets executed?
Different teams are taking different approaches, for example:
- Some teams have taken a “4 Disciplines of Execution” approach, with weekly reviews of lead measurements, lag measurements, and actions.
- Other teams are holding bi-weekly reviews of progress towards targets.
- Other teams plan to hold monthly reviews of completion of actions, and progress towards goals.
- Other teams will review widely accessible dashboards.
The important thing is that progress is being monitored, and if insufficient progress is being made, that corrective action is taken. A long time ago I shared that I thought the hardest question that a leader can ask someone who is working with them is: Show me that you are making the most effective progress towards your goal. The implications of this being asked by a leader are that the leader will listen to an answer from time to time to see this “most effective progress”.
So, have you:
- allocated regular time in your calendar to review progress against the plan in the coming year;
- made this the priority in your calendar so that it does not get usurped by the urgent;
- figured out how you are going to do this when you are travelling or otherwise away from your normal routine;
- made sure that the team executing the plan has allocated time to review its progress with you over the coming year?
I was impressed by the strategic plan for the coming year from my colleagues in Ghana. The plan included a summary of the objectives from last year’s plan and a summary of the achievements of this past year.
What was impressive was that what the team said a year ago that they would do is exactly what they did. Incredible!! I asked how this happened. The team leader explained matter of factly that they reviewed their progress against the original plan during the year. Again, incredible!!
The results spoke for themselves. We know the theory. Do we practice it? They did in Ghana last year. This is not rocket science is it?
Want another meeting? I’m sorry to day that is exactly what the 4th of the 4 Disciplines of Execution is.
So, is this optional?
No. This is not just another meeting. This is THE meeting each week to ensure that progress is being made on the single most important issue for the team. The Wildly Important Goal of which this meeting is the subject is the thing that, at the end of the year is THE one thing that must happen, even if all other things don’t happen. If anything is to be achieved this year, then the subject of this meeting is it.
Why would anything else be more important than the most important thing that needs to be achieved by the team? Of all of the meetings that you could attend or host this week, this is the ONE meeting that is the MUST.
Could these meetings be monthly? Yes, they could. However, if this WIG is the one thing that must happen this year, why would you want to wait a month before finding out that nothing had happened on this goal for the last month?
Without regular reviews of progress towards strategic goals, most people will get swamped by the urgent. You’d think that goals that are defined as strategically important would automatically be reviewed. Experience tells me that this is not so. In fact, the opposite can occur. When people are swamped by the urgent, taking time to remind oneself that what is truly important is not happening can be embarrassing, and avoided.
Sean Covey in 4 Disciplines of Execution recommends weekly reviews of lead measurements. I think that lag measurements (or the desired outcomes or goals) should also be reviewed, just in case the lead measurements are not leading to the correct lag effects.
Covey recommends frequent, but short, reviews of progress. I agree. This keeps the goals in the front of the minds of those people who would otherwise be swamped by the urgent. I can remember many projects when we were developing telecoms products that did not have regular reviews. I don’t remember them being consistently delivered on time. This is Project Management 101, and I’ve paid for not following it before.
This principle applies to any project. During 2 hour meetings we review progress against an agenda to see if we are still on track to do what we wanted to do during the time allocated. Similarly, we should regularly review macro progress to macro level goals over the life cycle of the strategy to achieve that goal.
I have concluded that daily or weekly 15 or 30 minute stand-up meetings in the short-term can save a lot of crisis management and war-room meetings in the long-term.