Get Your Team to Follow Through!

Get Your Team to Follow Through!

Imagine you’re planning your company’s budget for the next fiscal year. Your management team meets to establish short-term priorities and longer-term resource allocation. You identify next steps as follows:

  1. Develop a tentative budget for continuing operations
  2. Clarify upcoming corporate initiatives

However, when you re-convene a week later, little progress has been made – why? Unfortunately, those steps omit essential details, such as: what data must the team gather to estimate requirements for continuing operations? Who will collate it, and when? Which managers can inform on resource needs? Who will talk to them and record their feedback.

It’s not enough to define what needs doing; you must also spell out the specifics of getting it done, because not everyone involved will know how to move from concept to delivery. By using what motivational scientists call ‘if-then’ planning to express and implement your group’s intentions, you can significantly improve execution.

‘If-then’ plans work because contingencies are built into our neurological wiring. Humans are very good at encoding information in “If x, then y” terms, and using those connections to guide their behaviour. When people decide exactly when, where, and how they will fulfil their goals, they create a link in their brains between a certain situation or cue (“If or when x happens”) and the behaviour that should follow (“then I will do y”). In this way, they establish powerful triggers for action.

Many studies have shown that ‘if-then’ planners are nearly 300% more likely than others to reach their goals, and that such planning improves team performance by sharpening focus and prompting members to carry out key activities in a timely manner.

Organisations waste resources in pursuit of poorly expressed goals. ‘If-then’ planning addresses that problem by sorting out the details of execution for group members. It pinpoints conditions for success, increases everyone’s sense of responsibility, and helps close the troublesome gap between knowing and doing.

Does your team follow through?

Adapted from an article in Harvard Business Review by Heidi Grant Halvorson

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