The most common problem I encounter in consulting is the failure of my clients to fully apply the changes we’ve agreed to. Whether it’s a major strategy reset or just a minor initiative, there always seems to be an issue with translating the good intentions into action that gets positive results. This is why I’ve taken to building in specific action elements into all of the plans and projects I develop with my clients as well as follow on help with implementation, which is where the real work gets done.

Here are some of the key ways to ensure you can turn your plans into action that gets positive results on a consistent basis:

  • For any initiative to ‘good idea,’ identify the next action steps. I tell my clients that we need at least three successive next steps. Five to seven are even better, if possible.
  • Assign a project or initiative leader, someone with the ability to get things done. If the project concerns only one department, then it can be assigned there, if not, then you have to designate someone to manage it in a matrix manner.
  • Identify dates and times for progress review and for achieving performance milestones. I know it sounds silly, but the simple act of giving someone the responsibility to achieve an outcome by a certain date tends to focus their attention and produce better results.
  • Agree to outcomes and objectives, but not necessarily the details of their implementation. Leave that to the responsible manager.
  • Have periodic progress reviews in plenary, where everyone has to provide an update to the boss and peers. This creates public pressure to perform and complements the ‘self-accountability’ I described in yesterday’s post nicely.
  • Try as much as feasible to identify the principle resources that will be required to achieve the objectives of the project or initiative. This includes personnel, funds, time, and other key material inputs.
  • Perform a periodic audit of progress in achieving the original aims. The bigger and more strategic the initiative, such as a complete revamping of strategy, the more the senior leadership must be involved and lead it. For a strategic project, quarterly reviews may be optimal, but judgment is required in the cases of major departures from usual practices and organizational habits.
  • I know this is going to go against a lot of common sense wisdom but, as I’ve written in my newsletter, micro-managing may be required, especially if the project is truly strategic to the organization. Even a culture change initiative can require the CEO’s constant vigilance and involvement to ensure that the project stays on track and that people in the organization are performing and behaving in the required manner.

© 2012 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.

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