Monday, March 11, 2013

The simple (but difficult) discipline of follow-up

Ever wonder why so many programs, ideas, efforts, thoughts, concepts and projects come to nothing?

I conducted an experiment one time with 18 groups of people; 9 got the 'treatment' the other 9 did not. 

What's the treatment? 

Follow-up.  Pure and simple.

Here's what happened.  All of these teams got together to observe a bunch of best practices (another topic for another time).  They studied the best practices, learned about the best practices, developed plans for implementing the best practices ... BUT!

Only 9 of the teams showed improvement ... but they showed dramatic improvement over their non-performing peers. 

Follow-up.  Pure and simple.

We got together every 30 days and simply asked "Have you done what you said you were going to do?"  How hard is that?  Candidly, it's very hard for several reasons.

Why doesn't follow-up take place? 

  1. The novelty of a new project wears off as soon as the gravity of the challenge sets in.
  2. Executives move on to new projects.
  3. Workloads are increasing at an ever faster rate, allowing precious little time to schedule yet another meeting.
  4. Some folks would prefer to let a sleeping dog lie.
  5. Some folks intentionally want the focus to fade away.

Yet follow-up to anything is the discipline that makes things happen.  So what do we need to do?

  1. Simply add a logical follow-up date immediately after a series of decisions are completed. 
  2. End of the day for the extremely urgent and end of the week for the rest.
  3. For most projects, a 15 or 30 day follow-up is normal.
  4. Invite the same people immediately after your decision and action meeting.  Let me stress IMMEDIATELY - you have their attention, and they know why the meeting is needed.
  5. Ensure their boss is in attendance ... get their bosses' boss if possible.  Accountability drives action - like it or not. 
Getting things done requires the simple but difficult discipline of follow-up. 

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