The post on the 2 tools SME’s need in early August led to a comment that, whilst the headlines of focus and discipline made sense, the challenge is in implementation.
So, how do you build the needed focus and discipline in the face of increasing complexity and competition?
Over 40 years of doing this stuff with SME;s, there have been 6 common factors that lead to successful implementation that have emerged.
- Ownership leads to commitment. In an increasingly complicated world, the hierarchical organisations that worked for us to date now fail, they are too rigid and process driven to be responsive to the chaotic input from a connected world. Leveraging what Clay Shirky calls “Cognitive surplus” becomes the competitive challenge to be won.
- Prioritisation and planning. There is a fine line between prioritising and planning a set of activities, and procrastination and doing the easy stuff that does not really matter. Two rules of thumb: 1. if it is easy, it probably does not matter, and 2. An extra minute spend planning will save an hour later on in the project.
- Accountability. It is one thing to “make” someone accountable in a top down organisation, it is easy for some boss to just say “you are accountable” but that does not make it so. It is really only when the person takes on the accountability as their own that the motivation kicks in, that they really care beyond the protection of an income or position.
- Outcome measurement. Do not measure the activities, just the outcomes. It is good to have the activities visible, so you can see what is being done, but only the outcomes really matter, activities do not contribute to success in any way other than they are just the means to the end, so measure for the end.
- Failure tolerance. The “scientific method” applies to management as well as science, it spawns a fact based decision making culture, rather than one based on ego, status and hubris.The story of the most successful inventor in history, Thomas Edison, on failing for the 999th time to create light from a bulb saying: “Now I know 999 things that do not work” is a lesson for us all. The 1,000th experiment was successful, and the world was changed.
- Persistence. Never giving up is crucial, with the proviso that you learn from your mistakes, and apply the learning.
These 6 are a great start, to which I would add “Sweat”. My dad used to reckon nothing worthwhile was achieved without some of it being shed, and I think he was right.