How to Get It Done

How to Get It Done

Enjoy this series of shorts on Leadership from Jim.

Among the leaders I work with—all very senior and all deeply experienced—nearly all bemoan (in their own ways) how “long everything takes.”

SPEED BUMP: It doesn’t need to take so long.

We’re awash with stories about tech companies: they “fail fast,” they try and repair, they’re agile, they have bias toward action, and so on. These are all empty phrases. Yes, smaller, less established organizations can experiment sooner, try more, etc. But what if we’re not a small, exploding tech organization? Does time to decision matter?

SPEED BUMP: Is your organization keeping up?

Ubiquitous pressure for speed in most organizations looks like these devastating substitutes for action:

1. Working on more possible solutions

2. Planning faster, or refining measures or timelines

3. More decision meetings or discussions

Notice that NONE of these describes acting. You know: acting; doing.

SPEED BUMP: Busy-ness isn’t getting things done. It erases action.

Instead of acting, what I see is refinement at a faster pace.

If you have played a “speed sport”—skiing, snowboarding, windsurfing, surfing, or sailing—you know there’s a point where you must look farther ahead, or you will fall. You’re told never to look at your feet! Or have you looked out the window as your plane accelerates into takeoff, noticing that the picture blurs? At that point, the pilot is looking ahead to the goal and rooting for the speed (to prevent a crash). Are you looking out the window at how busy you are, or are you driving toward the goal?

Here are clues that you aren’t delivering the action that your business needs:

  • You struggle with managing time every day.
  • You wait to make decisions until there is more data.
  • You delay action because “the people aren’t ready for it.”
  • The way forward isn’t clear enough.
  • You want to define the final plan, but you can’t get to it.

SPEED BUMP: If you’re missing deadlines, look at yourself, not the situation.

The situation will always pull away from a decision unless there’s a fire. What to do instead? Light a fire—in yourself. You’re the obstacle, not the situation.

A skilled design engineer was regularly on edge because his support teams (drawing, analyzing costs, revising processes) took “too long” to finish their work. When he owned his part (fuzzy direction, slow response to their questions, etc.), momentum picked up.

SPEED BUMP: You can’t analyze your way to action.

What to do? Act. How to get yourself to act?

1. Define the problem, crisply.

2. Set an action date.

3. Force yourself and your organization to meet the date.

Yes, you set the date before you have an acceptable plan. No, you don’t know how long the planning will take. (Actually, you do: it will take the time that you give to it.)

SPEED BUMP: Set the due date and then build the plan.

How to set the date? Answer the purpose question (PQ) in 24 hours or less: What does the business need here?

ACCELERANT: What question needs your three-step action this week?

Hint: What’s the highest payoff question in your stack? Go there.

BONUS: This is the best way to develop your agility and adaptability. Planning won’t ever, ever get you there.

A note on SPEED BUMPS: Use them to click quickly with an idea that can immediately be implemented in your life as a business leader. Think: “How can I use this today?“or “Who can use this?”

Next up from Jim in this Leadership series, The Upside of Agitators

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