The success of any agency is fundamentally tied to the organisation’s ability to get sh*t done, yet many struggle when it comes to making progress on issues around their own business. I frequently find myself in conversations with business owners who clearly understand both what needs doing and how to do it, yet seem stuck in a perpetual loop of planning, meetings, and procrastination dressed up as strategy. Their frustration is palpable. Sometimes the team gets blamed. Sometimes the business leaders work even longer hours in the mistaken belief that it will break the cycle. Sometimes the ideas just get kicked further down the road, waiting for a time when “We’ve got less on” (please – let’s not start wishing to have less work on!).
The sudden shift to remote work has only made this worse for many. The time-honoured solution of “locking” everyone in a room until the work is done doesn’t work when your team is split between remote and hybrid working, and spread across three continents. Locking everyone on zoom just results in another meeting about why things aren’t moving more quickly, so how do we keep initiative moving and gain speed?
So, what can be done? How do we break the cycle and start delivering on the changes that our business needs? When I work with business leaders on challenges like this, we use six tactics to get the right things done faster:
You might have a million things you want to do, but the first step is to understand what the major things are you need to do now. This is informed by proper strategic planning; Once you know what you need to achieve it is easier to understand which initiatives need to be the focus in each quarter. Run fewer initiatives in parallel and focus on getting the most critical of them shipped.
There is a pattern of over-complication that I see frequently killing initiatives: Someone has a great idea and everyone gets excited about it, adding in ways to make it better. Suddenly the idea is bigger and better. But now it seems overwhelmingly big and complex so the idea is shelved. It’s great to expand on ideas, but you need the additional step over then simplifying again: What does the first version of this look like? How little can we do to prove the concept? What is the absolute minimum viable? How do we break this down? What is the first step?
The best way to ensure something never gets done is to ask two people to do it. Every initiative should have a single owner; a named person who is accountable for pushing the project forward. Everyone should know who the lead person is, and that lead person should have a clear understanding of what is expected of them and by when.
Don’t wait for the perfect time to do something, as it will probably never come. If the initiative is important then find the time and resources and move sooner.
Update meetings should focus more on looking forward not back. What needs to be achieved before the next update, what is blocking us getting there, how do we remove those blocks? It’s good to review progress against expectations to encourage that accountability, but too much attention to “how we go here” rather than “the path forward”.
It’s important to have those working on an initiative be the people who solve problems, not dwell on the barriers that need to be crossed. One senior person drawing regular focus on the challenges can kill the momentum of a project. Similarly, you want people who complete tasks and think “what comes next?” rather than “great, that’s ticked off”.
There are probably not too many surprises above, but if that is the case then why isn’t it happening? These things must become intentional and this way of working needs to become part of the organisation’s culture. Much of that is down to communication. Teams who know the plan and understand both what needs doing and why it is important become more focused on the outcome rather than just handing over their part. Knowing the end goals helps create that “What’s next?” mindset that drives progress. Get that right and great things start to happen.
The steps above will help you move more quickly, but there is another thing to consider before you start: Your direction of travel. I’ve written before about the importance of Moving with Velocity rather than Speed. Velocity, if you remember those school science classes, is speed in a given direction. In business terms this translates to the time it takes to reach your goals, which of course means knowing what those goals are. The six tactics above will help you achieve more, but it is only with proper strategic planning you can be sure that what you achieve is moving you efficiently towards an end-point that delivers what you want from your life and your business. Yes, some people “get there” without a plan, but rarely by taking the quickest or most efficient route.
So what next? What is the initiative you could complete that will have the greatest positive impact on your business? How are you going to get that sh*t done?