I had an opportunity to work with a fantastic team that accomplished some major organizational improvements over a relatively short period of time, about eighteen months. We implemented changes that addressed deep needs of the staff and promoted an environment of collaboration and ownership of their work. Our slogan (or some may say “war cry”) was #GSD… Get Stuff Done. And done we did… enhance business planning, overhaul of the CRM system and sales process, formalize the employee performance management program, expand family leave policy, restructure the bonus/variable compensation program, and implement an employee engagement program. It was a special team that achieved so much.
You also get things done. You may do them in a different way and at a different pace than others. You may get more done in one day than others get done in a month. You may complete one really complex project in the time it takes someone else to complete twenty simple projects.
There are a lot of variables influencing how stuff is done, how well it is done, and how quickly it is done. So we can get this article done in a timely manner and not treat it as an exhaustive survey of execution and productivity, we will focus this discussion on three topics. A high-level look at the process of accomplishing tasks, consideration of inhibitors to taking action, and a few thoughts on what managers can do to support and encourage productivity.
The process of getting stuff done is rather simple, at a high level.
- Define your goal.
- Plan your action.
- Go and do it.
Define Your Goal
Know your purpose. Know the purpose of your work, of the project, of the class you are taking. In a company, the entire team should know why they are doing what they are being asked to do. Focus, extreme focus, and persistence are key drivers to successfully accomplishing your goals.
Plan Your Action
Think about the work that needs to be done to accomplish your goal. What steps need to be taken? What resources are needed? Who needs to be involved? When does it need to be completed? Can it be finished sooner? What could go wrong?
Go and Do It
Begin. Start. Go. The hurdle to get started is sometimes very high. There does not have to be a whistle blown, a starting pistol fired, or someone yelling out “Play Ball!” Common suggestions for overcoming procrastination include doing the mundane or less desirable things first or identify the one thing you need to get accomplished by the end of the day. For major initiatives, approvals, team formations, and project plans create complexities to deal with. Keeping an eye on working the process of getting things done helps to not be overwhelmed with complex work.
There are as many or more reasons to not do something as there are to do it sometimes. Or at least it can feel that way. You may experience these inhibitors at different times, or a couple at the same time, that prevents you from moving ahead in an activity.
- Purposelessness – a clear, articulated, inspirational goal is not established.
- Perfectionism – thinking that anything less than the perfect result is not even worth trying.
- Analysis – spending so much time analyzing and debating possible solutions that nothing is started.
- Fear – afraid of being embarrassed, of failing, of being hurt, of losing, or the unknown.
- Distraction – attention is drawn to newer things, more interesting projects, shiny objects.
- Overload – committed to so many projects, assignments, or work packets that you cannot see straight, want to quit, or not motivated to do anything.
One of my maxims heard many times by the people I have worked with is that one of the primary roles of a manager is to remove barriers and excuses. Spending time understanding what is preventing something being accomplished is an important step in supporting the team you are leading.
- Collaboration – recognizing dependencies on others and not working in silos.
- Continuous improvement – an environment and mechanisms to identify issues and offer solutions that can be implemented.
- Deputizing – employees own their work and are empowered to make decisions, beyond just delegating tasks.
- Monitoring and providing feedback – timely feedback that can be used to take action, using leading indicators as possible.
- Keeping score – sharing and celebrating accomplishments with the team.
- Accountability – expect successful completion of work and set people up for success.