“I’ve got a great idea” said the bright young thing. “It’s brilliant in its simplicity, clever in its concept and cannot fail to succeed”.
Then the idea died; stopped dead in its tracks, killed by the quiet assassin. It Didn’t stand a chance.
Who killed it?
We all did.
We who fail to plan how to implement great ideas. Without knowing how to implement our great ideas, what we conceive as greatness is simply and inevitably doomed to a miserable failure.
Great ideas maybe, but all killed by the quiet assassin that is our acquiescence in the shameless failure to plan, deliver and embed that which will make us more effective, more profitable, more expert in what we do.
So, how do we protect ourselves from the heartless attentions of the quiet assassin?
In this article I have set out ten steps to influence the behaviour in ourselves and in others that will help ensure success and six significant actions to take in our planning:
Ten Steps to Influence Behaviour
1. Develop your plans in detail. Focus not just on the “what” but on the “how”. Then publish the plans so that they are visible and tangible for all who are involved, but stress that this is an iterative approach, one where contributions are welcomed.
2. Ensure you have thought through the communication strategy. Who needs to be told in advance, who needs to be influenced, who needs to be informed? What is the ongoing communication plan? How will people know we are making progress or not?
3. Induct everyone in a consistent and detailed way. Everyone involved needs to have the same messages, be informed of the expected behaviours and understand the values that underpin the strategy.
4. Be self-aware of the behaviours you exhibit. Nothing undermines a plan more quickly than not doing oneself what one expects of others. So turn up to meetings on time, stick to the agenda, make actions clear and achievable and always, always do what you say you are going to do.
5. Invest in the appropriate infrastructure and technology to get the job done, but never rely just on kit to get a job done. Emotional intelligence and well managed relationships will equip you more assuredly for the work that must be done than any blackberry, palm pilot or six sigmatised flow diagram.
6. Describe in detail and often what success looks like. Your team has to know what success looks like so that they can celebrate it when you get there. People need to feel a sense of achievement so your plans should ensure that stages of progress are clearly marked and an opportunity is given to note the achievement of reaching those stages.
7. Treat training as a strategic investment. If people need to be trained to help in the planning, get them trained thoroughly and well. Make it important for them and they will respond accordingly; apologise for the inconvenience it will cause them and they will treat it as an inconvenience. And if training is part of the deliverable, ensure people do it, do it well and value it.
8. Assume nothing. What are your contingencies for every significant point of detail? You will obviously plan to deliver the end game but to get there you may need to have thought through how to cope with delay, defection and deflection.
9. Always, always keep the commitments you make. This is the currency of credibility and the means by which momentum is generated and sustained. If you do what you say you will do then those around you will respond in kind. It’s not rocket science but it is the rocket fuel for your progress.
10. Be especially cheerful. Project implementation can be thankless, disappointing and bloody hard work?but the positive tone you can set will keep people motivated and on track. A sense of humour does not get the job done but it can unblock tension and generate goodwill?
These last ten points have all been about influencing the right behaviours; the following six points are about the actions to be taken to keep implementation planning on track.
Six Actions to Keep your Implementation on Track
1. Reward good behaviour as soon as it is revealed. A “thank you”, a pat of the back, a note to the boss?anything small but valued that will encourage more of what you have observed.
2. Punish poor behaviour, but remember that punishment is not about how you feel; it has to be proportionate to the behaviours observed. If you are having a bad day don’t take it out on those around you, but if you see behaviour inconsistent with the values and aims of the project, note it with the individual concerned and encourage them to do things differently.
3. Implementation is the hardest thing to do in any business. It requires people to work away from their comfort zones to act on trust not on experience. One of the most effective ways to help people through this is to have colleagues buddy each other on key points for them as individuals. For example if one colleague has three actions to complete then their buddy is there to gently encourage and support their fulfilment and vice versa. In this way any discomfiture is contained, support is real and the achievement shared. It is not easy, but much better than leaving people feeling isolated and unsupported.
4. And in a similar vein, try to institutionalise mentoring and coaching. To make the acceptance of change something of a habit, we need to share experience not just know how. Training technical skills may be desirable, but learning from the experience and wisdom of others is far more real and valuable in the midst of a complex change programme.
5. Publish your result – big graphs and diagrams should cover the walls and allow people to visualise their progress and their success. Blue Peter knew a thing or two with its annual Christmas appeal – The “totaliser” concept works because as a species we need to visualise things to understand them. When people suddenly comprehend a complex idea they tend to say “oh, now I see!” – So give people things to see.
6. Celebrate your successes. Small celebrations that mark the completion of an event or stage will galvanise identity around the cause. It is a spur to continue and an acknowledgment that effort has been seen, noted and valued. This is a powerful influencing factor for motivating people to do more of the same. Leave the same people unrecognised and their energy and enthusiasm will dissipate quickly like water running through a leaky pipe.
When the next bright young thing in your world says “I’ve got a great idea” – Don’t allow the quiet assassin chalk up another victim!
Ten steps to influence behaviour and six actions to support your implementation will help you keep the assassin at bay.