In part two of this series we focus on common issues that prevent the execution of new ideas. Nothing is worse than having fantastic new ideas, having everyone on board… and then nothing. The excitement in the air goes stale, the passion dissipates, and you are left with great ideas that never see the light of day. Let’s examine a couple of the most common reasons we see this, and some strategies for keeping the implementation engine running.
Problem: Initiatives get lost in a sea of priorities
I don’t know an executive who doesn’t face this challenge routinely. The list of priorities continues to grow, and the time available in the day continues to shrink. Unfortunately, this is a reality for most people within the organization as well. To make things worse, the more tiers within your organization, the more difficult it is to manage everyone’s priorities.
Opportunity: The solution to this boils down to incorporating a corporate governance program built for managing change. When the list of projects and tasks keeps getting longer and longer, you need a consistent structure to help everyone in the company identify and move the highest priority items to the top. This means better strategic direction from the top down, and a system to manage the flow of information from the bottom up. (Read McKinsey & Company’s detailed report for a great structure). From an executive level, it is your job to properly define the very specific objectives necessary for the company to realize its strategy. These should translate into 3-5 things that are your highest priority (Steven Covey coined the term “rocks”), which should directly drive the items that are the highest priority for the entire company, all the way down to the front line. The focus then becomes working feverishly on the high priority items without letting the day to day tasks consume too much time. With a narrow focus on only a handful of priorities, you can create the inertia necessary to start checking off the items on your lists. In no time you will be prepped and ready to quickly tackle any new idea that comes along, and better yet, all team members will be collectively focused on getting them implemented.
Problem: Employees seem to reject change, and initiatives seem to always “stall”
We’ve all witnessed this. Everyone sits in a meeting and seemingly agrees to the “new idea”, but months later you still have no progress. Or you have a handful of new excuses why the idea isn’t going to work. This is usually the death march for new initiatives, and unfortunately squeezes the life out of your innovation efforts.
Opportunity: This is nothing new. People are creatures of habit, and anything that interferes with our ability to exist will have our brains slamming on the brakes as fast as we can. Abraham Maslow theorized that we are all motivated to achieve certain needs in our lives. When changes in the workplace occur, your employees evaluate how that change is going to affect them. If they believe it will affect how the company values them, and therefore threatens their security, they will fight to hold on to what they have. The easiest way is to reject via road blocking, issue challenging, schedule delays, and in some cases by sabotaging the efforts. Although sabotage may be extreme, we have run into it on multiple occasions. There is only one consistent way to get employees to embrace change and get buy-in. You must show your team how that change is going to elevate their abilities to deliver what the company needs. You must associate the change to the value equation the company has for each individual. This means linking the changes to the strategic objectives of the company, and showing each team how their new responsibilities will be measured. Additionally, you must properly show them how to perform their responsibilities within the new system. When they feel comfortable in the end result, and confident in their abilities to perform the new actions, they are much more likely to embrace the change. Your job is to make sure these bases are covered for everyone required to adopt something new, be it process, responsibilities, or technology.
Taking the time to build a corporate governance system that drives change is one of the most powerful techniques available to turn a company into hyper drive. Just think of what you can accomplish when you harness the time, energy and focus of your organization, and unleash it on your strategic initiatives.
Check out the third part in this series to learn about ways to keep up with changing technology.