I have worked with many businesses in a consulting capacity. The primary focus was to find out how to get change happening.
Often there was no real problem with identifying change. There was sometimes an issue around knowing how to change, or managing the change. There was very often an issue with getting the job done.
Their lists of improvement actions weren’t moving. Building up actions like this can be overwhelming for many. Seeing the actions build up and not progress can be demotivating.
There is a bigger issue here though…
If the list of improvements don’t get actioned then a bad habit can build…
This bad habit can:
- Take the (good) pressure off the change process.
- Make it OK to ignore the process of improvement.
- Leak out to other lists, stopping management tasks from happening.
- Impede the rate you reach your objectives.
So, the question here is “how do we get our improvement actions back on track?”.
Let me share with you a few different methods you can consider to get stuck improvements moving.
Nibbling change with the Kaizen approach
Kaizen is not only a Japanese word for continuous improvement. It embodies the idea of making change palatable. It approaches change by helping it to fly under the radar, so that the ‘fight or flight’ response doesn’t kick in.
When this response kicks in, when the size of the task seems too great people do one of two things. Some (the minority) will take on the challenge. The majority, the rest of us, procrastinate. We do anything but tackle the mound of work infront of us.
Kaizen is a simple strategy. Break up the task into small, bite size, pieces. As progress gets made, confidence builds. As confidence builds, activity accelerates. Kaizen might look like a slow approach, but it can speed up pretty fast. It can help you reach your goals faster than you could have thought.
Parking some of the opportunities
Focusing on a smaller section of the action list might be enough for your team to become comfortable. Think of this being like an iceberg. Work on the visible section only, obscure the large mass.
As you close out actions, let some more into the visible part of the list. This is a strategy that ties in beautifully with the previous idea.
Don’t hide the actions forever. Regulate the flow of their completion in a controlled way!
As a manager, you might need to schedule time for your team. If the actions are important, making time is appropriate.
(If the actions aren’t important, why are they on your list in the first place?)
Following the Kaizen approach, start small. Don’t try blocking out half a day if you know that you will have ongoing interruptions. Start with ten minutes, or half an hour once a week. Build up as you are able to.
Little and often is better, in most cases, than infrequent chunks of time. If you pick the right actions, you might actually free up some time from your normal schedule.
Use the start of the working day
Parkinson’s Law is a funny thing, isn’t it?
“Work expands to fill the time available” is a good summary of the law. How do we use this to get our actions moving again?
The logic here is that you should use some of your working time at the start of the day. This implies that you should still have enough time for everything else.
Now, mathematically you can disaprove this. The reality is that you focus in a different way. You use your time in a more efficient and effective way. You get more done.
We know that leaving important actions to the end of the day doesn’t work. It takes discipline to use this approach, but it certainly produces results!
Get a ‘task buddy’ (including ‘the hour of pain’)
My last point is to find a buddy to help you on your journey.
Sometimes you need someone to bounce ideas off. Sometimes you need help. Sometimes you need someone to buy you some time.
Let’s focus on the last point for a moment.
You could find a buddy to take your calls for an hour, to let you get your head down with closing out actions. This hour, used in a wise way, could be super productive. Change could happen at a rapid rate.
To make this work, you pay back the hour. Take their calls, on top of your own. Take the ‘hour of pain’ as the results are worth it.
I have used this approach, so have my clients. It works. Yes, effective teamwork can deliver great results!
Getting actions moving again doesn’t have to be an ordeal. Try out the ideas put forward above and see if you can start to make progress. These ideas work whatever actions you are trying to close out.
Closing out your business objectives, management actions or improvements has never been easier!