Improving your business can often fall into a similar category as trying to lose those stubborn 15 pounds. You know you need to do it, and at times you get fired up about it, but at the end of the year you still didn't lose any weight and maybe even put on a couple more pounds. Likewise, you probably didn't get around to implementing any of the new business strategies you've been thinking about.
We fail to follow through due to lack of accountability. You can have the most brilliant idea for your business, but if you don't hold yourself accountable to follow through on that idea, then it will be gone as quickly as it was devised. This is especially difficult in business because you usually have to rely on multiple people in your company to stay accountable. Have you ever devised a new strategy, held a meeting explaining your new plan, and then watched as people defaulted to their previous habits? Let's define how to create and implement an improvement plan that actually becomes a permanent part of your business culture.
1. Schedule Regular Meetings
Meetings are one of the first items people cut when they’re trying to make more time for other things. But meetings are a vital component of a successful business, providing a protected time and place to stay connected, work together, and focus on business growth. Regularly scheduled meetings help team members stay accountable and be inspired to generate ideas and plans.
2. Write It Down For Everyone to See
You’re probably thinking: I write stuff down all the time. Great! Where are those documents right now? Chances are you have no idea or they are scattered among various notepads. What did you do with your management meeting notes after the meeting? If you want to implement any type of change, write down your plan and clearly display it in a public forum; this will immediately create a level of accountability.
3. Break It Down
Take your random scribbled notes and hone them. To make this an actionable improvement plan everyone can use, it needs to be clearly defined and broken into action items that can be implemented, tested, revised, and completed. Start by defining general action items that can be used as units of measure for the progress of your plan’s implementation. Keep it general and short, focusing on defining the plan’s milestones. Assign each milestone to a team member who will be accountable for overseeing the action items that will cumulate in the completion of that milestone.
4. Create A Deadline
During a project for a client, you typically have milestones that are completed sequentially and each of the milestones have their own due date. Granted the dates often move, but there’s still a deadline. When defining a business development plan, approach it the same way. Your business growth plan is the written proposal. Clearly define what you will be doing and when it will be done. By defining a timeline for your business growth you are able to reinforce accountability.
5. Create an Action Board
I'm a big fan of action boards—such as a large white board posted in a main gathering area—where you write down your primary milestones and immediate action items. When you have your management meeting, review your current milestones and determine what objectives can be accomplished over the next 30 days. These action items should be limited to only items that can absolutely be completed in that time frame. Again, each action item must be owned by a single person. Each action item and its owner should be on this board, providing visible accountability and the direction and progress.
If you’re ready to improve your business, create an environment of accountability. Hold regular meetings, document your plan, issue deadlines, break your plan into milestones, assign the milestones, and publicly display your plan, milestones, and 30-day action items on a public action board. Finally, continually review, revise, and improve your plan. As management expert Kenneth Blanchard said, “There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when it's convenient. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses—only results.”