3 STEPS TO PRODUCTIVITY: PLAN, COMMUNICATE, FOLLOW-UP

Put Your Ideas To Work

There are only three steps to being more effective as a manager, supervisor, and leader. Try them and see what happens.

Plan

Most of us plan our vacations better than we plan our lives or our daily work routine.  Think about it, when going on a vacation you probably do some of the following:

  • get the maps, travel guides, and all the other information for your destination,
  • sit down and collaborate with family or friends,
  • get on the telephone or the Internet and do some research,
  • engage a competent travel agent,
  • have a thorough plan in place before the first day of your trip.

Stop and look at the last project you completed. 

  • Did you do adequate research? 
  • Did you include the appropriate colleagues or consultants to assist you?
  • Did you take adequate time to plan?

I once had a client, only half joking, say, “But Garth, you don’t understand, we don’t have time to plan today … but we have lots of time to do it over tomorrow!”

One statistic suggests that approximately one-third of what’s done every day is being done over because it wasn’t done correctly the first time!

Your first step, plan. As Steven Covey says, begin with the end in mind. I’m a huge plan of backward planning, or, if you prefer, reverse engineering.

  1. Visualize the completed project. What does it look like?
  2. Identify all the streams or sequences in the project.
  3. Identify all the steps in each stream.
  4. Identify what must be done to complete each step.
  5. Set timelines.
  6. Act.
  7. Celebrate your success when you take each step.

This process can take a long time for a major project or you can do it quickly for simpler tasks. The challenge is, do not skip steps.

What happens if you don’t have a process like this? You lose focus, get frustrated, and get lost before you get to the end. Saying “lost” may be kind. Too often we just slip into procrastination or some bright, shiny idea comes and takes us away from the task.

Communicate

It’s all about communication and most of us don’t plan it.  We say we need to talk to George and jump up, run down the hall into George’s office and start talking.  Shortly after that our brain engages.  Take 30 seconds to plan your next conversation and you’ll be amazed at how well it goes. 

When I plan, I fall back on my days in broadcast news and answer my own W5 and how questions.

  1. Who am I going to talk with? Am I going to talk with the correct person to get the information I need or to pass along information?
  2. Why this person?
  3. What information do I need to collect or give? Why?
  4. Where should I have this conversation? The location does make a difference in how effective the conversation can be. Should it be in your office, their office, a neutral boardroom, or even over coffee?
  5. When is the best time to have the conversation? Just because it’s important to you right now it may not be the right time to talk to the other person or persons.
  6. How should I communicate with the other person? Emails and texting are frequently the easiest way, but face-to-face communication is still the best. Think effectiveness and efficiency before you make a phone call, go down the hall to the office, or set up a meeting. If you set up a meeting, make sure you provide the agenda in advance and take notes to record who is going to do what at the end of the meeting.

Follow-up

This is the forgotten art in the corporate world.  We start projects; we might even plan those projects, but we rarely follow-up with adequate attention to detail. 

Far too many times during my career I have had someone come into my office and suggest we start a team or a new project to solve a problem that probably already had six teams and seven projects connected with it.  No one with authority or clout followed up the first time. No one was held accountable.

Follow-up tips

  1. When you are planning your activity, make sure you know how you’re going to follow-up or who will follow-up, if it’s not you.
  2. Schedule your follow-up in your calendar. If there is a due date, ask the person how the project is going sometime before the project is due. If the individual hasn’t had a chance to get to the project or forgot about it, this can be a reminder there is a deadline and you believe in accountability.
  3. Report the results or progress of a project to those connected to it. Even those only remotely connected to a project deserve to be kept “in the loop” on the progression. Many times, I have had people come to me with great suggestions when they saw follow-up on a project. The outsider’s viewpoint can be the most relevant.

How many projects or assignments can you count, right now, that would have been completed the very first time if someone, anyone, had followed up and did everything that was planned and suggested?

Make this your time to act when it comes to this great trio: plan, communicate, and follow-up!

Garth Roberts © 2019

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