Effective leaders accelerate the flow of ideas to actions for their team
“Ideas are easy; doing things is hard. ~Seth Godin
In my SmartBrief article “How Leaders Can Teach Their Teams to Become More Creative“, I offered a focus on the approaches used in many workplaces to generate ideas. After all, ideas are oxygen for problem solving. However, good ideas are not enough. As leaders, we need to complete the process and ensure that a strong idea-to-action machine is working in our teams and in our organizations.
Here are some approaches to help reinforce the flow of ideas into action in your workplace.
First, identify the obstacles that slow the flow of ideas to actions
Let’s assume for a moment that we have solved the new idea deficit problem that exists in too many organizations. It’s time to focus on what’s stopping ideas from getting off the page and into action.
Lack of filtering mechanism
A clear strategy and supporting goals are the ultimate filtering mechanisms – allowing individuals and groups to gauge what to do and what not to do. When the strategy is vague or the goals are high and unachievable, every idea seems equally good or bad, generating paralysis from ideas to actions.
Assess: How clear are your strategy and priority objectives? Can your team members use them as filtering tools to decide what gets done and what gets ignored?
Whether due to vague strategy or senior leadership misaligned with the realities of organizational workloads, it is common to find environments where priority projects exceed available resources. This project mentally and physically overloads team members and causes other potentially impactful ideas to be permanently hidden away.
Assess: Is your team exhausted by the overload of priority projects? Doesn’t the team adopt new ideas for fear of making their situation worse?
Wrong measurement systems
The adage “what gets measured gets done” remains true and is often reinforced by offbeat compensation systems that encourage unexpected behavior.
One team was concerned with over 60 key performance indicators. They spent so much organizational energy trying to capture and report on these metrics that management ignored fundamental market changes despite employee suggestions and customer pleas.
Assess: Are your measurements generating data fog? Are they clouding your team’s view of the new ideas and innovations that are critical to strategic success and customer satisfaction?
5 ideas to help fuel your idea-to-action machine
After assessing and resolving the above barriers, it’s time to focus on changing the work environment to support a better flow of ideas to actions. Not surprisingly, much of the heavy lifting falls on an organization’s managers and leaders.
1. Accept your responsibility for ideas in action
Leadership must be the catalyst, recognizing that its primary role is to create contextual clarity (strategy/goals) and empower smart people to work together in a fearless environment to move great ideas from the whiteboard to the table. ‘stock.
This is not a program of the month initiative; it is a fundamental shift in leadership, empowerment, sponsorship, reward and coaching. And it happens at every level, from front-line managers to the C-suite.
2. Drive out the fear
The late management thinker and quality guru W. Edwards Deming is more relevant every day with his 14 points for management. Point #8, “Cast the fear away,” is the best advice you’ll ever receive in your management career. In the words of Deming:
“Problems created by fear result in bad data, ineffective decision-making, and the destruction of joy at work.”
This last problem, the “destruction of joy at work”, undermines the desire of many to strive to make a difference with new initiatives.
Spend time connecting with your team members. Redouble your efforts to create mutually valuable one-on-ones. Flex to meet their communication needs. Listen carefully and use questions to bring out their ideas.
While these management tips are suitable for all situations, one of the side effects of eliminating fear and creating that clear, quality work environment is increasing people’s willingness to try. new things. Trying new things is the raw material of a healthy environment of ideas in action.
3. Bring the “experimentation” value of your business to life
Raise your hand if you’ve heard a manager or leader say, “We value experimentation here,” and then penalize people who conducted failed experiments.
I consulted a company where the leaders trumpeted the values of innovation and risk-taking, but when I asked about examples that resulted in success, no one could cite any. The company’s difficulties were partly explained by the lack of healthy behaviors that favor the transformation of ideas into action.
It is imperative to reinforce a culture that rewards learning through experimentation. Achieving this cultural shift involves measuring success differently – by evaluating employees for their willingness to try new approaches and translate knowledge gained from failed experiments into new actions.
4. Heal the “new ideas lead to more work” mindset
A culture rich in ideas is indeed a culture where new work is constantly identified, but there is a difference between more work and new work. Good ideas lead to new work.
Everyone, especially managers and organizational leaders, must remain vigilant to kill pet projects and initiatives that do not have a powerful purpose. It takes courage to say “No” or press the “Stop” button on something in motion. It also takes the experiment value boost described above. If there is a penalty for killing initiatives, the flow of ideas to actions will stop.
5. Use a multi-horizon approach for your ideas-to-actions portfolio
Not all projects have an immediate ROI, and neither should they. It is imperative to divide initiatives into different time horizons and support them accordingly. An activity that promises short-term gains through process improvement is handled differently than one that involves in-depth exploration of new technologies or new markets.
The first requires quick execution, and the second requires nurturing and incubation. The right environment will encourage exploration across multiple time horizons.
4 Healthy Ideas-to-Action Behaviors Exposed
From the school of “you know it’s working when you see it in action,” here are some healthy behaviors to look for in your ideas-to-actions environment.
1. Successes and failures are treated with equal enthusiasm
Everyone recognizes that the path to success is through failures and misfires. The premium is on the learning process on the way to positive results.
2. Managers serve as responsible sponsors for initiatives
I like when managers are involved in the success of an initiative. Serving as a responsible sponsor challenges the manager to break down barriers and pave the way for a team’s success. Additionally, for projects that cross borders, managers are challenged to build or strengthen relationships in other areas and help ensure the satisfaction of all stakeholders.
3. Advanced problem-solving techniques are exposed
Much of the problem solving that takes place in organizations reflects convergent thinking. Individuals and groups converge on a problem using approaches that are familiar to them, but when faced with new situations, convergent thinking does not work.
In one organization I worked with, individuals spent a lot of time framing and reframing issues, then challenging each other to generate wild ideas based on the different frames.
In another, the focus was on studying organizations and their customers in distant markets to find out how others had solved similar problems.
For your idea-to-action machine to deliver great results, innovative thinking is essential in the problem-solving process. Coach your teams in this area for maximum efficiency.
4. The flow of ideas to actions is measured and monitored
As described above, our metrics drive both positive and negative behaviors, so be careful here. Monitoring the flow of ideas to action and then to impact is essential. Just be careful not to overemphasize short-term gains and incremental solutions at the expense of inventing the future. Measure learning, and also measure failures that lead to learning and success.
The bottom line
Ultimately, healthy work environments create mechanisms for evaluating ideas and turning them into action. The job of management and leadership in today’s world is about empowering motivated people to create something new, whether it’s a product, service or process. .
Leaders in an organization must continually work on a culture that eliminates fear and fosters creativity that leads to impact. Is it time to adjust your idea-into-action machine?
Art Petty is an executive and emerging leader coach and a popular leadership and management author, speaker and workshop presenter. His experience in guiding several software companies to market leadership positions shines through in his books, articles, and live and online programs. Visit Petty’s Management Excellence Blog and Leadership Caffeine Articles.
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