Earlier this year I was reading the book Change Making by Richard Bevan and I got to thinking about how it is important to have “tools” ready ahead of time for your work. Much like a blacksmith has an anvil, a forge, sets of tongs, and other items that are needed for the craft, a strategist should have important materials on hand. In the corporate world, these often take the form of templates and process documents for repeated use. In more thought based scenarios conceptual frameworks can be generated to allow for the needed customization of each objective.
There is some foundational infrastructure and planning that an organization must do to have at the ready. These are areas in which having a plan can really benefit or secure an organization’s efforts for the long term. As a short sample, here are tools an organization needs before their intended use:
– Marketing materials, specifically company branding
- All office documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Project, etc.)
- Letterhead for formal communications
- Other branding documents (ex: hand-outs, product/service pamphlets)
– Legal documentation
- Purchase Orders/Invoices
- Accounting/HR materials
- Personnel materials
- Company agreements and deals
– Thought leadership
- Organizational mission, vision, strategy, and objectives
- Trademarks, patents and other proprietary idea information
- Product and service delivery plans
In addition to the special purpose materials above, there are many efforts that can be built in such a way that they can create operational efficiency gains later on. Here is a sample, and definitely non-exhaustive, list of reusable tools that can be created and later repurposed:
– Structured meeting notes (it helps to have a guide and flow to record discussions)
– Project Communications
- Kick-off announcement
- Progress update
- Feedback request
- Request for action
- Go-live announcement
- Close out announcement
- Visually appealing or structured slides
- Reports (assessments, progress, recommended actions, etc.)
- Approach summaries
- QA/Test/Audit materials
- Question sets (surveys, focus groups, interviews, etc.)
- Workshop and offsite materials (timing, structure, ground rules, agenda, etc.)
The challenge is to find the right thresholds in standardizing and formalizing. If too much policy is dictated or documentation is required, it can become burdensome and counterproductive. The higher security or sensitivity that needs to be incorporated, the more thought needs to be put into its preparation. As services are delivered, the iterative improvement process can lead to fantastic results. Often times, the guiding principle is to create a foundational process and have best practices brought in, but not mandated, to allow for ingenuity and innovation.
Is your organization equipped with the right tools for success?
I have been on many projects individually and as a part of a team where I felt I did great work and the results had a very strong, positive impact. Unfortunately, some of those projects led immediately into another project without honoring the work done, which helps in understanding and learning from the experience. It also allows for “taking a breather” to regain faculties and energy. It is even more draining leaving a difficult or intense project and launching immediately into another. I’ve seen very efficient and effective teams change their working dynamic and devolve into a challenging work environment.
On other occasions, an acknowledged break or departure from business as usual takes place after a major milestone to step back from the next step in line. Activities like lessons learned, honoring commitments made and realized, acknowledging achievements and taking a break to relax are done to celebrate the great strides made and success of the project. After such activities, I have seen low morale transform into high hopes and positive outlooks, a renewal of effort and commitments, performance improvement decisions for individuals and teamwork, and increased energy going into the next project.
No one and no team can sustain high output and performance indefinitely. Similar to how everyone needs to sleep, despite what some might say, everyone needs an occasional break. It does not take much and simply having a team dinner, commemorative meeting or other special occasion can go a long ways to renewal.
When you have the occasion to celebrate success, make the time to look into the following areas:
- Acknowledge strengths and accomplishments of your team and colleagues: This feedback reinforces continuity, performance, confidence, and morale. Strengths based change is very powerful, energizing, and renewing in itself. If there are people that have natural strengths that help out the team, go to the extra effort to praise them and enable those strengths to be drawn upon.
- Learn from experience and past results: Understand what went well and what has not gone well. Knowing these areas and making plans to extend the good parts and mitigate the bad parts leads to increased likelihood of success in the future. Too often we are learning on the job through trial and error or by having to make snap judgments on how best to proceed. Taking time to reflect, understand what happened, and understand how the strengths and/or accomplishments can be expanded, reused, or heightened in the future can be a very impactful and fruitful activity.
- Build team and individual confidence, reliance, and overall effectiveness: A well-functioning team is more than just the sum of its individual contributions together. First a discussion on the accomplishments and achievements made by individuals should be done. After that, the team should examine where and how those work products can be leveraged or built upon at the team level. That leads to making the skills, strengths, and cooperation of a team complementary and generative. The end results are that the work products make a lead ahead in their impact.
As an individual contributor, team member, manager, and/or leader take the time to celebrate the successes that you and others on your team have created. You may be surprised to see how that can help you, your team and your organization in the future.