In my early years as a manager, I attended a training seminar where the instructor paraphrased Confucius and counseled the class that “Every journey begins with a single step”. That bit of timeless wisdom has stuck with me ever since. When faced with an overwhelmingly complex challenge, I always remember that counsel, take a deep breath and then break the situation down into a series of achievable steps so the objective can be more easily achieved. The process has never failed me.
I thought it might be helpful to share the process with you. It really isn’t complicated, but disciplined execution will help you successfully tackle seemingly difficult organizational problems that are getting in the way of efficient performance. You might call it “common sense”. I had a manager who would have called it a “no-brainer”.
If you apply the process, it should help you improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your operation. Equally important, it will make everybody involved feel more productive. That, in turn, should give you the added bonus of improved morale.
THE 4 STEP APPROACH
Step 1: Identify which processes you want to improve.
You can’t change everything at once, so intentionally choose the 3 processes that you want to change the most. Which processes are most important to accomplishing your mission? You may decide to target a ‘good’ process that you want to make “great” and/or a “problem” process that needs some improvement.
Step 2: Set specific objectives.
For each process, ask yourself what specific outcome you want to accomplish by working on that process.
For example: Lead Management: My objective is to improve the number of qualified leads being managed by +20%.
Step 3: Create an action plan.
Be realistic and be specific as you decide what you are going to do to assess and change the process. Describe what you will do by when and who might be able to assist you. Put it in writing. We all need encouragement and support and most of us benefit by being reminded/ held accountable by others. Be intentional about who you want to share your plan with.
For example: I need a better understanding of what “great” looks like, so I am going to conduct and complete a benchmark analysis of lead management processes used by the most successful economic development organizations. This evaluation will be completed in 30-days. In the following week, I will compare our current process against the best-in-class examples and identify the three most important changes we can afford to implement. Then, at the next scheduled Leadership Team meeting I will present my recommendations to the Executive Director for consideration and alignment.
Along the way, it will be important to include our Sales Manager in the discussion so the recommended course of action has his/her full support.
Step 4: Just do it!
Take action as soon as possible, even if it’s just a small step, do something that accomplishes a goal, and celebrate the success publically. This builds forward momentum that will help propel you to success. Plan the activities into your ‘do do’ list and hold yourself accountable to complete each item. Ask for help from your team and Management if you get stuck.
Easy to Use Planning Template
Action Steps >> Target Deadline? >> Who is Responsible?
Resources Required (headcount, money, knowledge)
Sometimes, the best advice is the simplest. In my 12 Things I Believe document, you will see I believe writing improves thinking. It also enhances commitment and raises the probability of success. Even though the above template appears simplistic, it helps you get your thinking down on paper where it can be evaluated and strengthened by colleagues and Management. If you apply the template with discipline you should start seeing that you get even more mission critical things done in less time.
Please leave a comment and share your perspective, as well as any tips you might have for getting important things accomplished. By sharing, you help everybody get a better learning experience.
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