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How to Follow Through on Great Ideas at the Office

Does your company frequently come up with great ideas that seem promising, but just kind of fizzle out over time?

This is one of the three most common business problems I’ve encountered in my career (the others being frequent rework and poor interdepartmental communication). I often hear clients complain about:

  • Employees coming up with great ideas that never go anywhere
  • Lively company meetings that produce exciting ideas, but time goes by and nobody follows up
  • Naysayers who squash good ideas before they can be fully evaluated
  • Starting to work on a great idea but inevitably getting pulled into putting out fires
  • Not enough time to commit to fully developing new ideas

Coming up with great ideas that are poorly (or never) implemented is a great way to waste time and energy. It’s also a waste of talent. So why does this keep happening? Why do so many ideas die or get killed before being fully realized?

It takes a lot of motivation to go from idea to implementation. But beyond that, it takes a shared vision. You need an entire team onboard with the idea to achieve critical mass.

I’ve learned through experience that successful implementation happens when plans are communicated clearly and in full detail with everyone. All employees need to feel free to contribute to the exchange and implementation of ideas. Everyone needs to be on the same page and have the same vision.

What are you core values?

Your core values are the essential and timeless guiding principles for your company. They define your culture and should also guide all your major business decisions.

Have you taken the time to think about and write down your core values? It doesn’t take long and the payoff could be huge.

Whatever core values you identify, you must be committed to them and be willing to live by them.

These values will also help you find the right talent. If someone doesn’t care about your company’s guiding principles, they shouldn’t be working for your company.

A business’ greatest asset is its people. But for people to contribute to their full potential, they need to feel like they’re part of something bigger. Taking directions from leadership isn’t motivating enough. Employees need to feel like they’re part of the decision-making and problem-solving processes.

What’s the best way to make this happen? By implementing what I call ‘open-book management’.

Open-Book Management 101

This might seem like a radical idea at first, but hear me out …

I recommend that you start sharing financial data and goals with your employees and start speaking openly about the financial health of your company. Being more open about your company’s finances shows your employees you trust them. And it makes them feel valued. There’s no better way to build trust than by telling the truth.

This brings us back to the original point of this article, which is how to make sure more good ideas are properly implemented.

Once you start implementing open-book management, you’ll notice that team members are more willing to share their ideas. And more ideas means that more great ideas will inevitably come to the surface. But what do you do when a great idea is presented and people get excited about it?

Try the 5W-2H worksheet

“KEEP six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.”
— Rudyard Kipling

The secret to a successfully implemented idea is to answer 7 fundamental questions (1 more than the number Kipling recommends). The 5Ws and 2Hs will give you a clear way to compare different ideas and will help you come up with a plan for implementation.

DOWNLOAD: The 5-Minute Game Plan...

To start using the TIP for your business, please download my free guide, “The 5-Minute Game Plan for Improving Communication, Eliminating Rework, and Following Through on Great Ideas” – Even if You Only Have 5 Minutes to Spare, which includes a free TIP worksheet.

Another quick and reliable way to increase the speed of work, and hence throughput, is using a scoreboard.

Use a scoreboard to boost throughput

The most important determinant of your company’s success is how fast work flows through the business. To increase the speed of work, you need to have a steady workflow that’s free of interruptions.

Avoiding (or at least reducing) interruptions requires switching from a reactive mindset to a creative mindset.

When you commit to doing this, you’ll notice your employees will become ‘trusted accountants’, tracking their own performance data and keeping a keen eye on your company’s end goal.

A business scoreboard is a creative solution for increasing the speed of work.

  • It gives you a snapshot of what’s essential for making good decisions
  • It helps you identify what areas are doing well and what areas need help
  • It gives you the power to make sound decisions based on facts, not opinions

The measures you track on your scoreboard will help keep everyone accountable.

Download my free guide, How to Solve Your Top 3 Business Challenges – in Just 5 Minutes, and use the sample scoreboard provided for inspiration.

Does a scoreboard really work?

We often hear about great ideas arising from powerful “eureka” moments of inspiration or clarity. But that’s never the whole story.

The greatest achievements actually begin as seeds that grow and grow until enough momentum builds, or the time is just right.

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”
— Vincent Van Gogh

Here’s a great example: In the runup to the 2008 Olympics, the UK cycling team, led by coach Sir Dave Brailsford, used the theory of marginal gains to direct their training. They ended up winning an amazing 7 out of the 10 available gold medals in Beijing. But before 2008, the UK cycling team had won only 1 olympic gold medal in its entire 76-year history. So what, exactly, did they do to accomplish this incredible feat?

They mapped out a simple plan and committed to executing it day in, day out. Brailsford theorized that if they broke down everything that goes into cycling, then improved each element by just 1%, they could achieve a significant improvement in overall performance. His bet paid off.

Now, some of their measures were a little extreme (to avoid illnesses during the competition, they hired a surgeon to teach the athletes proper hand-washing techniques and decided not to shake hands with other competitors!). But nevertheless, this story shows how measuring key lead indicators and committing to small improvements from every team member can lead to incredible achievements (as measured by lag indicators).

Why not start thinking about your company’s key lead indicator now?

DOWNLOAD: The 5-Minute Game Plan...

Download my free guide, “The 5-Minute Game Plan for Improving Communication, Eliminating Rework, and Following Through on Great Ideas” – for your free scoreboard and Throughput Improvement Plan templates.

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