Author – John Rindy, MPH
An old friend and I used to joke that business can be pretty much summed up this way:
- Have a meeting
- Make lists
- File a report
- Have a meeting on the report
- Make lists of reports
- Craft a strategy (and put it on the shelf)
- Hold focus groups on the strategy
- Have meetings about the focus groups
- Make lists of findings and report on the meetings and focus groups
- Make lists of meetings and reports and strategies and focus groups
I had a good chuckle today. I was talking with my intern, Riley, and I used the phrase “mired in the minutiae”; she asked what in the heck I meant by it. I explained that the minutiae is the stuff that is constantly swirling around us everyday. We get caught up in it all and find ourselves “busy”. Isn’t that good? Isn’t it good when we are busy?
Let’s cut to the chase with this topic. I remember way back in my early university learning when I moved colleges and decided to study business instead of music (a very good choice it turned out to be, by the way). We talked about case studies and paradigms, and strategy and all of those buzz words. We talked about planning, and thinking through what we were going to do with a business in the future. But it recently occurred to me that we never talked about executing anything! Fast forward to my more recent experiences in the corporate and higher education world. How many strategic planning process I have been part of, where we created the book and then set it on a shelf to gather dust. After all, as it turned out, we were “too busy” to do all of that extra stuff anyway.
I recently listened to an audio book from Franklin Covey – part of it was narrated by Covey himself, God rest his soul. It presented the four disciplines of execution; actually getting things done. I thought this would be a good place to share those four disciplines:
Draw a line in the sand: This means that you and your team choose two or three goals and only two or three goals at a time to try to accomplish. If you all agree to focus on those goals amidst the whirlwind (the minutae) then at least everyone knows what is important in addition to the day-to-day.
Choose your measure: Of course you need to know if you have hit a goal, but what about on a daily or weekly basis. You need a lead measure that predicts the lag (the goal itself) measure. For example, the book explains, the scale is a lag measure (also called an “Oh crap!” measure) if you are trying to lose weight. What would be predictive of the lag measure? What would be a good daily lead measure? The number of calories you eat. The amount of exercise you do. These are more up-to-date measures. You can literally monitor them all day, whereas weight, you can only measure when you step on the scale. Oh crap!
Display the score: People are more apt to see through the minutae if there is a scoreboard they can see. The book described the average corporation mired in minutae as “bowling through a curtain”. Sure you might like bowling, but if you can’t see if you hit any pins, what fun is it? Indeed! The same goes for an office team. The presentation also made the point that if you watch kids playing on a playground basketball court, you can always tell if they are keeping score, even if you can’t hear them. They are playing tougher, making better shot selection, getting more emotional, using more teamwork and yes, even celebrating a basket more, together.
Build in open and oral accountability: Staff meetings should include a period where each person in the office articulates aloud one or two things they are going to do in the coming week to affect the lead measure.
I don’t know if there is a magic bullet to actually help us leaders move from planning to execution, but I do know that too many people fail on the execution side of the equation. Maybe these four simple disciplines can help someone to at least see where they are lacking in their own execution amidst the daily whirlwind.
It’s your future. Take charge!