Part 2- Why Aren’t You Finishing Projects?

Part 2- Why Aren’t You Finishing Projects?

Is it time to focus and finish your projects for this quarter?

Before you answer, click here to read my article from two weeks ago– “Why Aren’t You Finishing Projects (Part 1).”

Here are my thoughts on “Why Aren’t You  Finishing Projects – Part 2”: 

The main answer is that you are juggling TOO MANY projects.

Below is my graphic explaining another concept from Todd Herman.

This example shows what happens if you juggle 5 projects, versus tackling one at a time:

This shows you the impact of “context switching”– when your brain and effort is spread across multiple things.

As Todd explains it, if it takes 4 hours to finish one project, and you do one hour a week on 5 project at a time, it takes you 16 weeks to finish Project A.

If you work on only Project A, you are finished in 4 weeks.

Now I realize that some projects take more time and require waiting on other people, but I think the concept is pretty clear.

One finished and implemented project is worth 50 started and abandoned ones.

If you need a bit of inspiration/ motivation to keep plugging on Project A, re-read the article PART 1.

So pick one half-finished project and make a commitment to power through and “get ‘r’ done” by the end of the 13-week quarter.

Image from Todd Herman

Part 1 – Why Aren’t You Finishing Projects?

Part 1 – Why Aren’t You Finishing Projects?

You, small business manager, want to improve things.

I will bet dollars to Freddy’s Famous Buffalo donuts that you have a “wish list” of projects you want to implement, and you have started some of them.

Yet your office (and mine) is littered with books unread, binders from great workshops, possibly brochures or saved emails with a system or process that sounds great. One you want to investigate that just might make your business operate more smoothly or more profitably.

Hey, we are idea people and we are starters (maybe not finishers).

When you do start something new with anticipation, this most likely happens (image from Todd Herman):

One of the most persistent complaints I hear from employees of small business is that “we don’t finish what we start” and that the owners/ managers are always adopting the latest book advice or stuck in chasing shiny objects syndrome.

Making changes, finishing a project or new process, and getting everyone on board and sticking with it is HARD.

You have to be patient and persistent to make progress, and to stay positive with all the set backs and challenges you encounter.

Four things you can do to start and finish your projects:

  1. Do ONLY ONE at time (more about this next week)
  2. Enlist the help of your team– don’t do it all yourself
  3. Create an action plan with weekly action items and assign tasks to specific people with a deadline
  4. Meet weekly (same time) to review what is complete, what needs to be discussed/ decided, and what is next

As a bonus– get an “Accountability Buddy” outside of your team/ company (a colleague or a consultant) who will hold you accountable to make progress, keep you motivated, and help you work through the inevitable bumps on the road.

Maybe even decide the reward you will give the team to celebrate– such as a “pizza party” or outing or something nice for the office (plants? Fooze ball table?). This can keep you motivated as you slog through the tough parts and keep you sprinting toward the finish line.

Image from Todd Herman

Step 3 of 6 to Coach for Accountability – Action Plans

Step 3 of 6 to Coach for Accountability – Action Plans

This continues my 6 part series on coaching for accountability (you can read Step 1 and Step 2 here).

Step 3 is to start using Action Plans:

6 Steps to Coach For Accountability & High Performance [see all 6 steps on my 1 minute video slideshare].

Most employees (and also most managers) are naturally focused on getting their “day job” done. Their cognitive “time span” and time management skills are typically focused on the next day or next week.

This is a major reason that all your good ideas and wish list of projects for improvement never get very far, much less implemented.

The concept of an Individual Action Plan has personally been an incredible organizing and planning tool for my entire life, and changed the direction of our family business.

When I was in high school, our family business started using a business consultant, who taught every one of our 25 employees how to create and use a personal action plan.

My mother had 3 retail stores, two production facilities and a business services division with hundreds of accounts.

When every person had an action plan and they had “quarterly action plan meetings” they were able to focus on the daily work AND make progress on those pesky projects. It also made it easy to see how everyone was contributing and working together on business building activities.

It made the difference between chaos and progress, and transitioned us from overwhelm to a professionally managed profitable business.

There are two inter-related purposes for action plans-– the first is to monitor and prioritize activities that support major projects or programs. The second is to use action plans as a training and development tool. I say inter-related because when people contribute to projects this contributes to their skill and competency development.

Your employees want and need ongoing reminders and assistance with taking action on bigger projects, so that they make progress and focus on small steps every week.

When they have a written action plan, and they review in your weekly coaching conversations, this helps them stay on track. If you don’t review and hold them accountable to make progress, anything beyond daily urgent work gets forgotten.

Quarterly Action Plans Overview:

Ideally you need to do a bit of design and discovery to begin the action plan process.

  • First you need to compile a full list of all active company-wide projects and create an action plan for each, with sections or tasks assigned to the responsible person. [More than 4 projects— prune the list down.]
  • Second, you should meet with everyone individually to discuss their desired training and development direction [part of your annual performance conversation.]
  • Both of these topics become action steps on an individual quarterly action plan.

What goes on an action plan?

  1. Specific training for the quarter- aligned with personal interest and business need
  2. Stretch assignments– areas where this person can enrich or enlarge their job duties beyond the current role
  3. Delegation items to take over responsibility from peer or manager
  4. Action items or steps from company-wide or department projects assigned to this person
  5. Cross-training to “back up” or shadow someone
  6. Research opportunities– what problem can they investigate possible solutions?
  7. Outside/ formal training programs or workshops, such as industry certification or a job-related degree

Action plans also need to list specific action items, aligned with a broader goal, who is responsible, and a target date for completion.

They are an integral part of aligning every team member’s work with the business goals, and to leverage the rhythm of weekly coaching with progress on business-improvement projects.

As an added bonus, you will be building trust and the engagement of your team by focusing on the key drivers of retention. With the right topics and agenda, the quarterly action plan meetings become “stay interviews”– a technique that employers are finding valuable to hold onto their high performers.

Next Steps:

Watch my 21-minute video training on Action Plans for Training & Development 

Next step I will share details on Step 4 “Delegate, Don’t Abdicate” [see all 6], and expect to have a new Guide to Coaching for Accountability by the end of this month.

 

Are You An Idea Hamster?

Are You An Idea Hamster?

I often spend time with clients and other business owners who are full of ideas– so many they don’t know where to start, or they starting working on 2 (or 10) without much progress. Their head and office notebooks are littered with the ghosts of projects past.

I heard another business owner Amy call this being an “idea hamster”– what a great term!

You have an idea, and another idea, and another one, and you start running on that hamster wheel spinning and going no where.

Sound familiar? I know that it does for me, I struggle every day with being a reformed hamster.

Here are six key steps that have made a difference for me to complete something important [as Seth Godin calls it “shipping”]:

  1. Write a destination postcard for the end of the year– what you plan to accomplish
  2. From the postcard results, generate a long list of potential projects and categorize by type [are they planning, sales, marketing, people, operational?]
  3. Now rate those projects on effort and on impact on your goals — then rank by those with the highest impact and the lowest effort — these are your short list– put the rest into a “parking lot” [crucial step 1- they are always there to be re-considered.]
  4. Prioritize the list of projects— does one have to be completed for another to be effective? Does one address a burning issue or roadblock to growth?  Rank them and put a guestimate on the number of weeks to complete.
  5. Select the Number One priority project, get your team together, make an action plan to divide up the tasks and start chipping away every week.
  6. Crucial step 2– do not start another project until this one is complete! 

Do not get distracted by the next shiny thing, just keep momentum on that project. Focus on the next step, one at a time, every week.

Get your team concentrating on just one task and making progress. Yup, it’s hard to do but any change in habit is challenging.
{See the great graphic above that I think captures what we all go through! This is great, this is hard, this sucks… dark swamp of dispair…}

5 Plans to Run Your Business

5 Plans to Run Your Business

Remember Steven Covey’s habit “Begin with the end in mind”?

There are five main plans to guide your activities and decisions to create the business you desire:

1. Strategic plan

It is crucial to provide a roadmap to guide your major decisions. A simple strategic plan answers the key questions: “what kind of business do we want to be, who are we, what do we do best, who is our ideal customer, how are we different, what do we value?”

2. Budget

An annual budget is a planning document that is a snapshot of your goals for revenue increases, cost reductions, and profit enhancement. Once finalized, it becomes a monthly report card to ensure your activities and projects are on track to achieve the expected financial results, or to alert you to items requiring attention to fix.

Budgets are also extremely valuable to aid your decisions— they are a simple tool to forecast the return on investments or business changes.

3. Sales plan

If you want to find, attract and cultivate leads into new and repeat customers, the solution is to have a consistent optimized sales process that is semi-automated. This “pipeline” is designed around finding the Ideal Customer [who craves what you have to offer and deliver well], and then nurtures the relationship, until they are convinced they need your solution and you are the right vendor for them, turning them into customers.

4. People Plan

This plan outlines your current and future people roles—what job titles you need, clarifies role responsibility and authority, and forecasts what additions and changes to roles are needed to support sales growth and new business lines.

This plan also specifically outlines what people are accountable for, and how they will be measured, as the foundation of your performance coaching and process improvement.

5. Owner’s plan

Owners, just like every team member, should be in a role that maximizes their strengths. Many owners continue to be the CEO- the Center of Everthing Officer. This creates a huge roadblock for growing the business as the owner becomes overworked and overwhelmed. An owner’s plan considers their current and future desired involvement, and outlines a plan to transition responsibilities to key people over time.

Once you have these 5 plans defined, this guides your team to prioritize activities and make effective decisions to achieve the results outlined in your strategy. You and your team have the entire “operating manual” to optimize and automate your business, and ensure it’s transition and survival beyond one key person.

This reminds me of a phrase repeated by my veteran friendsProper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance… 

 

Image provided by basketman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

9 Ways a General Manager Will Benefit Your Small Business

9 Ways a General Manager Will Benefit Your Small Business

Over the years, you built your small business on step at a time. Your hired more staff to sell and service your clients, then you added an office manager and/or an accounting manager. With each hire you expected to get “freed up” to act like an owner, not an employee.

Yet you are “crazy busy” every day– getting sales, monitoring if work is done, leading improvement projects, fighting fires, and otherwise tending to the daily work in your business.

What could be the cause? If you have 10 or more people on staff, you are likely missing a “level” of management.

You have level 1- individual workers, and you (level 4)- expecting to lead well-designed and highly functional systems run by others.
You might even have level 2- a “supervisor” who monitors daily work of direct reports (perhaps informally and tactically), and is concerned with the next week or month.

But if you want to plan 1-5 years out and make changes that will improve your people, process and profits, you have to get out of the “daily supervision” game.

You need a deputy.

Here is a list of 9 ways your deputy (general manager) can positively impact your organization:

  1. Watch the store– develop and implement dashboards with key business results, review regularly and alert you to any “exceptions” so you know things are on track and there are no surprises
  2. Process improvement – identify trends in your hassles, bottlenecks and other issues, research to find route cause and suggest solutions, then implement the solution
  3. Build your team– Identify new roles or more people before your delivery suffers. Recruit, screen, onboard and train new staff that are Ideal Candidates, build a virtual bench of pre-qualified candidates before a position opens up
  4. Coach the team– schedule, assign and coordinate work, monitor performance and attitude, give feedback, train and develop people for the best job fit and opportunities, engage the team to retain A players.
  5. Client experience building– handle escalation of client issues, routine relationship building, periodic follow up to uncover unreported issues and identify opportunities
  6. Get stuff done– Take your brilliant ideas for sales, marketing, process improvement, customer service and work with you to implement them
  7. Get Strategic – Provide another viewpoint and involvement input in annual goal setting, then cascade goals down to every person, communicate and implement via individual dashboards and team coaching conversations.
  8. Hold down the fort” so you can have dinner with your family and take several two-week vacations (almost worry free)
  9. Open up your schedule– so you can focus on thinking and planning, provide leadership and direction, building strategic relationships, and monitoring from a dashboard (instead of an avalanche of data)

Basically a deputy lets you guide the process while they drive the business.

Most owners wait far too long to get a deputy- a general / operations manager. The concerns are the usual- effort (how can I find and train a good one) and cost (how will I pay for him or her?).

Take a quick count- how many of these are happening now in your business?

What impact would these activities bring to your business if they were in place?

  • Would it tighten up your sales process to win more business and increase revenue?
  • Would it increase customer satisfaction leading to more sales and referrals?
  • Would it provide the systems for reducing your costs based on higher efficiency?

If you increase quantity and value of each sale 5%, and reduce costs 5% this can double your profit.

Can a deputy do this for you?