We have all been there. A flash of brilliance — a new idea to improve our business. The latest, greatest, mostest, bestest path to a new and wonderful future. We find a sense of comfort in the notion that, when this idea comes to fruition, our world will be better — our business will be more efficient, our team less stressed, our clients better served.
And so we embark on the journey to rally our team around this idea. But then our enthusiasm for this inspired vision is met with thinly veiled apathy and comments such as, "we've tried that before", or "it didn't work last time". And so this latest idea joins a litany of initiatives that began with gusto and then quietly faded into oblivion — abandoned and incomplete. The trail of unfinished projects inevitably leads a disheartened team to lose faith.
The obvious cost of failed initiatives is the time and energy that could have been put into something else. But the real cost of the unrealized potential of something that might have been? Morale. Apathy. Credibility. Ultimately, it creates a culture where half-measures and failed execution are accepted.
So, what can you do about it?
Here are six ways to ensure that your initiatives don't die:
1) If every idea seems like a great idea, then no idea is great.
Measure the ‘brilliance’ of your idea for a new initiative against how it fits into the strategic vision you have for your company. How will this help get you there? Will it help get you there faster or better than your other ideas? Be selective about which initiatives you put your time and energy toward. Only work on those that are aligned with your strategic vision. Allocate time for you and your team to push these key initiatives forward to completion.
2) Don’t overload your team with too many initiatives at once.
It is okay to have many ideas in your pipeline, but only have a few key, strategically important ones in motion at any one time. Don’t start a new initiative until you've completed one that's already underway. This should be self-evident, by now, but if you start new initiatives before you complete the ones that are already on your team’s plate, you are only asking to repeat the pattern of incomplete projects that I described above.
3) Build momentum with short-term wins
If you are like so many others with a history of projects that have never reached completion, choose a couple of simpler initiatives that you can start on right now to break the inertia and create some short-term wins. The experience of completing projects is an important place to start to pave the way for success with more complex initiatives in the future.
4) Don’t be afraid to 'deep-six' initiatives that are no longer relevant.
If you have started initiatives that are no longer aligned with your longer term vision for your company, don’t be afraid to pull the plug on them. It is normal for some initiatives to lose relevance before completion — external factors can shift your priorities.
5) Make sure that your team is accountable.
The quickest killer of any initiative is lack of ownership. Ultimately, one person has to be the driver to ensure that a project gets done, but the team needs to feel a sense of accountability for their part in achieving a greater goal.
6) Have strategies for a clear path forward.
Projects often get stuck waiting for feedback or approval from other team members, so set a deadline for such responses and have a clear path forward in the event that the requested feedback is not received. Create an agreement that allows team members to move forward with the project even if someone else hasn’t fulfilled their commitments, yet.
Use these tips to build a team that is engaged and motivated and confident that they can drive your ideas to fruition. Your goal is to restore your team’s faith in their ability to tackle new initiatives to make a meaningful contribution to your business.
It takes persistent, active management to turn a culture around. Once your team has experienced the positive effects of succeeding in completing a few projects, the culture of your organization will shift to one that finds solutions instead of roadblocks when faced with new challenges.
To your Success, Differently.