Monday, March 21, 2011

What's the Plan?

I worked with a leadership team last week as they attempted to increase their organization's effectiveness.  We talked for nearly two hours about problems, progress over the past years, people, and opportunities.  Near the end of our time together, we discussed several universal organizational issues that contributed to average performance before we discovered "the problem".

I asked the Operations Manager what measurable goals were in the operating plan.  She explained that there were several goals, but that the goals lacked measurable results.  The goals contained soft measurements like, 'we want more participation', or 'we would like to have better communication with the community', etc... These kind of "soft" measurements do not promote accountability.  People perform best when given a specific task to complete.  However, the real problem emerged when the President of the Board of Directors waved off these concerns with the comment,  "That's not really our plan anymore."

The comment confused the Operations Manager, and stunned a long-time consultant; I was not surprised.  Most organizations suffer from a lack of clarity that hampers performance.  Clarity starts and stops at the top of the organization.  The fact that the President of the Board of Directors and the leader of the day to day operations of the organization were not aligned on strategy, tactics, and priorities is quite common and very unfortunate.

Clarity is essential for peak performance and change is a leader's constant challenge.

Consequently, planning and communication is a continuous process.

1) Stay connected with each other in order to establish a constant flow of communication.
2) Evaluate the progress of current plans and the assumptions they hold regarding the operating environment.
3) Consider alternatives and contingency plans that account for lessons learned or anticipated changes in the environment.
4) Finalize an action plan and gain leadership alignment.
5) Establish measurable goals and reallocate resources if necessary.
6) Communicate the plan to the team.
7) Get to work.
8) Establish a check point to evaluate progress.
9) Start back at the top. 

If you want to increase your results, ensure that your objectives are clear, your channels of communications with your team are clear, your team is aligned on the intended results, and everyone understands their roles, tasks, and performance expectations.  If you can reduce ambiguity, you will increase your team's odds for success.

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