Lisa looked up and glanced at the wall to her left, and chuckled at the illegibility of her writing. She let out a long sigh of exasperation. Just a few months ago she was so excited to have a portion of her wall covered in “Idea Paint”. She was certain that if she got the thoughts for how to move the business forward out of her head and up onto the wall, an action was sure to follow. Now with every glance, she was reminded of her inaction, of the lack of progress. She knew deep down that her failure to convert these ideas into plans and then into action was not a result of an absence of effort or desire. Rather, it was due to being constantly drawn away by the call of the mundane. Meetings, phone calls, spreadsheets, and dealing with the things that just popped up during the day, consumed all her time. But, understanding that provided little solace. She knew those things on the wall were the things that could make a real difference. Just then, the phone rang and she was once again whisked away.
I am sure many of you can relate to Lisa’s struggle. While conducting research for my articles, and in my work with my private clients, I’ve had the privilege of sitting across from executives from all different types of organizations. Whether it’s with the head of a billion dollar consumer products company, a mid-size family agribusiness or even a county Sheriff, there is one thing I hear more than any other. I will paraphrase: “I have so many things I want to do but, I can’t seem to find the time to implement them.” Let me share with you what I shared with them, and I will cut to the chase in doing so. It is not time that is your enemy. Rather, your inability to implement your ideas likely stems from a failure to do three things. Clarify and prioritize them, chunk them down into actionable steps, and have a means to ensure that you maintain focus and accountability. I know that was a little harsh, but I figured you’d appreciate hearing it in a straightforward manner.
The good news is you can fix this, and you can convert those ideas into action and that action into results. You just need to change your approach.
You must have strong strategic guardrails that include a defined purpose, the “why” for your organization. You need a clear vision, I am not talking about a being visionary, but rather about being able to describe what success looks like. You should have a set of cornerstone values, which will help guide the organization’s behaviors, define its culture and even determine the customer experience. Finally, you need to establish a list of desired outcomes. These serve as the indicators that you’re moving towards your stated vision. Guardrails become the test that all ideas should face. Doing so, allows ideas to be effectively prioritized.
Chunk it down
The next step is to break down those ideas into smaller action steps with defined deliverables. Too often, we leave a wide gap between concept and reality, making it feel almost insurmountable. Chunking down ideas into action steps creates a path that connects concept with reality. The key to this is establishing a measurement for each deliverable. At this stage, it is helpful to have someone or a group of someones who can assist you in identifying any potential pitfalls, and help bring to light any unintended consequences.
Focus and accountability
Here is the rub. Doing all of the above means little without someone who or something that helps you maintain focus and holds you accountable. The pull of the day-to-day is too strong and even the best of plans that are accompanied with the strongest of intentions are lost to the call of the mundane. You can lean on technology such as Trello or find yourself a thinking and accountability partner. But, whatever you do, don’t underestimate the importance of this support. In my opinion, this is the most critical factor to achieving sustained success.
What would converting your ideas into results mean for your business? What would it mean for you in terms of your stress, your sense of accomplishment and even personal efficacy? The prescription above is not easy, but done right it can have a dramatic and lasting impact on your organization. So, stop blaming it on a lack of time and start getting those ideas off the wall.