Traction – the link between ideas and results

19 Sep

One of the most asked questions I got during the conference and also almost every time I meet a  client is “why is implementation of anything so hard.”

One CEO said of his organization: they agree to do something, then it goes all quiet, then they hope I forget about it and after a while, nothing gets done. I personally know a CEO who had special carbon copy memo pads so that when he issues memo’s he could retain the carbon copy to follow up. I myself used to walk around with my big blue book and wrote everything in it like a diary. And still most of the things would slip through and not get done.

So why is this?

Well for one, what gets measured, gets done.

Second, peoples focus is always on what needs to be done now and immediately and not for the future.

Third, people have preset routines for getting things done and more likely than not, when something falls out of that routine, it probably gets shoved in the drawer.

Fourth, in most instances, when we give instructions, while it is clear in our minds as to what we expect, the instructions comes across as gibberish to the receiver. Because it is so clear in our mind, we expect it to be just as clear in the minds of others, and this is simply isn’t true.

Also when we download stuff onto people, we hardly ever help them re-prioritize. we expect them to take on these new task and still do the existing stuff.

So it is no wonder, that most often things that people say they will do, don’t get done and this is the heart of the issue of traction.

Traction is what allows a car to move forward. Without traction, the wheels would be spinning and the car going no where. A lot of noise and smoke but no motion. We have to learn to focus on getting traction. How do we create the conditions that are conducive to generating traction?

1. Learn how to create demand for what ever we want to do. One of HR’s frustrations is that to get any initiative going is like pulling teeth. And the reason is simple, there is no demand for it. Performance Management is a good example, everyone agrees it is important and yet when launched there is so much push back and after a while, it becomes a meaning less ritual. How many of us can really correlate our PMS to our corporate performance?

IT has the exact same problem with the introduction of new systems. People will want it customized to be like the old systems. Why, because for the users, they have mastered the old system and with a new system, they have to relearn again. Notice how when new systems get implemented people always ask for customization to make it work like the old.

However, if the business managers and users demand for something as they think it will help their performance or simplify their job,  whatever that initiative is will surely succeed simply because it plays to vested interest.

2. Whatever you want to do, link it to your P&L: any initiative that is clearly linked  to the P&L and /or Balance sheet has a much higher chance of success. The link must be an explicit link. Lots of organizations undertake initiatives without making this link – the current hottest trend is coaching. My question is what will be the impact of Coaching on your P&L and more often than not no one can respond to the question. Intellectually we know that it is important but so is everything else. Unless a clear link can be drawn, and the impact demonstrated, it will become just another top management fad.

3. Sell the method not the concepts: to get to implementation we often spend too much time trumpeting the benefits of an initiative and too little time focusing on implementation details. Why, because implementation is hard to do. It is always better to overcompensate by putting in more resources into implementation to get success then too few resources and see it fizzle out. Seriously, take a look around your organization and you will see that you have been long on initiatives but short on implementation. (This is also why consultants shy away from implementation…)

4. Before you start, check your appetite and stamina: We so often see good initiatives loose steam quickly because of the lack of appetite or political will to deal with the implementation challenges and the lack of stamina too see it all the way through to success. Time and resources are finite and if you are going to start something new, make sure you also have something old to stop. If not people just end up doing more and more. I always say that if all you do is one or two really good initiative in a year and really see it to implementation success, you are definitely better off then the rest.

5 . Adopt a policy of abandonment: This is from Peter Drucker:

Set up a systematic process of reviewing all products, processes, and services. Abandon those that no longer contribute to customer value.

To start cost cutting, management usually asks: “How can we make this operation more efficient?” It is the wrong question. The question should be: “Would the roof cave in if we stopped doing this work altogether?”

And if the answer is “probably not,” one eliminates the operation. It is always amazing how many of the things we do will never be missed.

Businesses that actually succeed in cutting costs don’t wait until they have to cut costs. They build cost-cutting into normal operations. They build into their routine operations organized abandonment. Otherwise, eliminating activities and operations runs into extreme political resistance.

Finally another quote from Peter Drucker:

Make sure the best ideas in your organization have fierce advocates to see them through a test in the marketplace.

Everything improved or new needs first to be tested on a small scale; that is, it needs to be piloted. The way to do this is to find somebody within the enterprise who really wants the new. Everything new gets into trouble.

And then it needs a champion. It needs somebody who says, “I am going to make this succeed,” and who then goes to work on it. And this person needs to be somebody whom the organization respects. This need not even be somebody within the organization

Often a good way to pilot a new product or new service is to find a customer who really wants the new, and who is willing to work with the producer on making truly successful the new product or the new service. If the pilot test is successful – it finds the problems nobody anticipated but also finds the opportunities that nobody anticipated, whether in terms of design, of market, of service – the risk of change is usually quite small.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 19, 2007 in Leadership


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: