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Improve implementation speed and remove blockages with these tried-and-tested actions.

My work is helping global managers to remove the blockages and misunderstandings that are slowing down implementation. That often starts with this question: does your culture have more of an input mentality or an output mentality?

Speeding up implementation or just getting it back on track requires an output mentality. In short, people focus on results. Here are five ways to build up an output mentality.

#1 Focus on results (outputs), not inputs.
A sure-fire sign of an culture of “input mentality” is implementation plans which are overflowing with input-based tasks. The classic examples are the spreadsheets with irrelevant columns like planned duration, actual start, actual duration and so on. Put this in the context of a football match. The planned duration is 90 minutes, the actual start is the kick-off time and the actual duration is the 90 minutes plus a few added minutes (at the discretion of the referee). These are inputs. They are all secondary to the primary output: goals scored. Goals scored is an output indicator.

Project implementation speeds up when we define the outputs and focus on them. (On the other hand: bureaucracy, internal politics and conflict all thrive when we lose that focus on results.)

#2 Be fixed on the vision, flexible on the journey.
The changes we plan on paper are never the changes that happen in reality. That’s because implementation has two components: planned change and emergent change. Planned changes are what we hope and think will transpire. Emergent changes are how people respond to the dynamic of Self-Other-Context, that is to:
•    their own needs,
•    the needs of other people, and
•    the context they are working in.
Back in 2009, post-financial crisis, one of my clients put everyone on a four-day week as a drastic way to urgently cut costs. However, most managers still worked as before: 5 days a week and more. Why? Because the context was clear. It was a matter of survival. Today the company is in a very healthy position. I doubt the same managers would work so long now. The context has changed and probably their own needs too.

#3 Use sprints. You are the "sprinter in chief".
Productivity and results rise rapidly when we work for concentrated bursts of time. Think of how professional athletes train. The marathon winner isn’t the person who ran the most miles in training. The top athletes implement processes which build in downtime, a healthy diet, plenty of sleep and a host of other vital factors. And it’s on managers to check in with themselves, just to make sure they have the physical and emotional energy to lead those sprints. Without it, they run the risk of creating business units and teams suffering permanently from a burnout culture.

#4 It’s better to move things forward a mile, than 100 things an inch.
This is all about setting priorities. Most people get it when they have too much to do in their day – that nadir when they realize some tasks need ignoring. Paradoxically, it’s this low point, this point of overload, when what is truly important to us emerges. When we identify the real priorities, the sense of relief increases and we feel free to pursue the handful of goals that we want to.

#5 Get everyone focused on the same goals.
What we focus on, gets implemented and what we ignore, dies. A good start is to invest time in getting everyone’s focus onto the key goals. This involves a little investment and a large investment – in a ratio of 1:3. A quarter of your time goes into explaining; the other three-quarters into listening. People quickly understand the logic of the goal itself. It’s the emotional, rational and intuitive blockages that get in the way. They make assumptions and speculations about what the goals means for them. I encourage global managers to visit locations and to spend time with people to CCC those assumptions:
•    Check those assumptions (on both sides),
•    Clarify your meaning, and
•    Correct mis-interpretations.
This skill takes time to learn and use initially, but the payback in shorter implementation time (in the long term) is huge. In my experience, the biggest barrier to having these trusting dialogs is usually the warped self-talk from executives and managers.

In short, an input mentality kills a company because it slows everything down. Executives can resist it by using the five ways above to move towards an output mentality – one that gets results fast.

 

 

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