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Embrace your improvement objectives, and your results!

It is funny how conversations with senior teams can turn frosty... when you get around to the topic of results. This is also the case when reviewing improvement objectives, when a similar result hasn't been produced before.

Mostly the plans are great. They take time to produce and many people enjoy the planning process.

When rubber hits the road, however, many teams seem to want to shy away.

Does this happen with your team?

A challenge for any leader in this situation is to make getting back on track with your improvement objectives a normal process. Not to hide the real position away, but to be honest about where you are and then do something about it.

The RAG approach (Red, Amber, Green) in visual management is a good tool to use here. It can make the process of being honest an easier one. Whilst you need to come up with your own definitions of red, amber and green, a good starting point is:
  • Red - completely off track and needs major support.
  • Amber - slipping off track, but should get back on track with a little bit of focus.
  • Green - on track (no need to worry).

The benefit of using an approach like this is that you can have a conversation about whether you are on track, or not. There is little good to come from hiding the real status from your colleagues and then, when the deadline is due, turn up empty handed.

It isn't fair on your colleagues and, frankly, isn't cool.

This RAG approach to reviewing your objectives is key to my Strategic Improvement Loop toolkit and can be extended to other elements of management. Action logs, order books, KPIs, management routines etc...

Now, of course, suddenly being open and honest might not be the natural method of working in your business. I hope it is, but if you have some competitive managers this might not be the most organic of approaches.

I'm sure there are many recommendations in this situation, but let me offer you two steps you can take here:
  1. Reward both honesty and results*.
  2. Lead by example.
* I note here that I don't expect any organisation to solely reward honesty if results don't follow at some point!

This change might not happen overnight. It might take a bit of practice for it to become natural and habitual. If you can get there, however, you can properly start executing plans and having grown up conversations about making change happen.

It really isn't rocket science.

Enjoying RAGging your business!


About the author:

Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who specialises in helping businesses to grow and improve through better business processes and embracing Kaizen.

Giles is also the author of Effective Root Cause Analysis and 'What Does Good Look Like?'.

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