For years, we have tracked the completion rate of our strategic planning clients on intended outcomes in their plan. Our philosophy is that if we don’t positively impact that completion rate, then we have truly added value despite the quality of the plan/strategy itself.
Improving the completion rate ultimately involves improving the time management and productivity of the team members assigned outcomes in the plan. It is challenging for us all to find time for work on improving/changing the organization. The terror of our inbox, calls, day-to-day grind of directing, problem solving etc. eats up our time.
Whether consciously or not, as the computer or phone lights up with new requests or information, these new requests take precedence over our static commitments to the outcomes and tasks expected of us in the strategic plan. Our mind says, “I’ll get to it as soon as….”, but that time never comes.
We coach leaders to give the strategic plan and progress on it a high profile. High performers are by nature competitive and don’t like seeing that they are behind their team mates in completing their assignments. The more visible you make “the race”, the higher the possibility that everyone will finish on time.
Here is one practice we have seen frequently that is closely correlated with poor performance on strategic plan outcome completions: The Leapfrog.
When running a plan accountability session, the leader asks Joe how he is coming on a given outcome. Joe responds that he has been really tied up with whatever, and he would like to move that outcome into the next quarter of the plan. He can see light at the end of the tunnel, and he will get right on it as soon as he is through this rough patch. The leader, being generous and understanding of spirit, relents and agrees to delay his expectation of outcome completion. The problem is the rough patch never ends. In the next quarter, we hear the same story. We have seen this numerous times. The end result is that the outcome and likely the entire project leapfrogs off this year’s plan and into the next.
I am not suggesting the plan never be revised – more on this in future blog postings. But, you need to make the distinction between a structural change and a failure to perform at a higher level. By structural change I mean an unforeseen complication that stalls the outcome. For example, cooperation from an outside entity was not possible, an outside party had not responded, shipments were delayed etc. A structural shift could also be something in the life of the team member responsible for the outcome, e.g. a truly unforeseen emergency in his/her section, a family illness, etc. In the case of a structural shift the outcome cannot be completed on time if nothing changes. In these cases, have the team problem solve on a means to get the project back on track. If not feasible, then, and only then, consider moving the outcome to the next quarter.
For non-structural challenges, e.g. being overworked, not setting aside time to work on the outcome, etc., I would suggest not moving the outcome to the next quarter. Doing so keeps the spotlight on the non-completion and will spur the team member responsible to find a means to get caught up, and that is what you want.
If you have questions or are having challenges with this, contact us. We would be delighted to help you move your current strategic plan forward.