In business there is no shortage of good ideas. There is no shortage of things that you and I can do to improve our organisation. But there is a world of difference between having a good idea and putting that idea into action. A good idea is a waste of time until it is acted on. How can you ensure that good ideas get followed through?
Don’t have too many of them. I once heard a motivational speaker say “You can have it all”. Bunkum. We can’t have it all. And because we can’t have it all we have to choose. We have to prioritise. We have to pursue that which is achievable. A sure way to kill good ideas is to have too many of them that never get acted on. The reason for this is that your people will stop coming up with improvements if they know that their idea is going to languish in the back waters of some memorandum with a passing reference to it now and then so that people feel the suggestion is “alive”. Also, most small commercial undertakings, can usually only focus on one or two important things at once. Better to have fewer ideas that get implemented than a long list that is continually demotivating your people.
Make sure they have been discussed with the stakeholders. When someone comes up with a “great idea”, it will seem great to the person who thought of it and perhaps those that were present when the spark of genius arose. But the spark will quickly fizzle to smoke if the idea does not sit well with people that are involved with the ramifications of it and are not consulted on the matter before its implementation. When this happens, the enthusiastic few who are sponsoring the idea must fight the attitudes of the demotivated and annoyed many. Guess who usually wins?
Have a method of following up the idea until it is done or discarded. This is a “get on the soap box” thing with me. Good ideas will be nothing more than that if there is not a determined commitment to follow up on the idea until it is implemented and producing the outcomes that were the spark of the process. The ultimate responsibility for this follow-up needs to be with the owner or manager of the business. It they don’t follow it up, then people will get the message it is not important and another business improvement process will have bit the dust.
There are many ways to follow up on progress. These include programmed reporting times, charts on a wall, written reports to the management team or to all the personnel of the business. Sometimes having a person external to the business follow-up on progress can be very effective.
Make sure that those in authority think it is important. I have implied this point in what I have already written. But let me make this clear by making a broad, sweeping statement. In my view, about 95{75f7d6826a5ae8a0173b8a8159b63ceac1acc20c4a43d07670d992b80bd52f77} of the reason why things don’t get done in an organisation is because those in authority don’t see it as important or can’t be bothered. This can occur even if the person in authority thought of the idea or was involved with the creation of it. A person in authority will indicate the importance of an issue by bringing it up regularly with his or her people and in the actions taken by that person.
Build a culture of seeing things through to completion. The benefits of this can payoff over and over again. If your people know that items on the “to do” list get done, it sends a compelling message to everyone. It also makes a solid statement that the business is heading somewhere. And, if you can, mark the completion of major tasks with an event of some type so that your employees understand that the job has been finished. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate function. It could be drinks after work (or during work). It could be a simple opening ceremony. It could be a slight change of uniform worn by your employees. Or it could just be a round of applause for those involved in accomplishing the task.
Wishing you easier business.
John Jeffreys