I always find it interesting that, regardless of industry, the challenges facing the executives I work with come in waves of similar issues. As I write this, several clients are coming to the end of their fiscal year. As a result, they’re reassessing budgets, strategic initiatives, productivity, profitability, and the departure of a key team member or two. Needless to say, times are – again – very busy and challenging for them.
To help them navigate these challenges and debate their next steps, I’ve been encouraging them to get hyper-focused on the impact of the work they and their teams do. Of course, they’re tracking if they’re going to be on, over, or under budget. They’re monitoring to ensure they’re on target to meet strategic initiative milestone dates. They’re logging their reductions in waste and improvements in production efficiencies. They’re checking their margins. And, they’re dreading the dates when key team members depart. However, tracking, monitoring, logging, checking, and dreading don’t move a person, team, or organization forward. They simply describe where you are now and what got you here.
Tracking, monitoring, logging, checking, and dreading don’t move a person, team, or organization forward. They simply describe where you are now and what got you here.
To better clarify what you need to focus on, continue, adjust, or discontinue going forward, focus on impact. Instead of simply tracking what has and is being done against a constant metric such as a budget number, due date, percentage improvement over a prior number, or days left on the job, focus on impact. Start to challenge yourself and your team to not simply report the status of your tasks, but to also identify what impact the work is having and if it’s in line with the time, money, and resources allocated to it.
Instead of simply reporting the status of your tasks, also identify what impact the work is having and if it’s in line with the time, money, and resources allocated to it.
This change in focus changes the way team members think about and report on the work they do. Instead of simply saying, “We’re under budget for the quarter by 2.75%”, have your team members expand their updates. By simply reporting a metric, they’re leaving the analysis and decision-making up to you. So instead, ask them to provide updates that share the current status but that also share the impact of their work to help others understand and to enable better decision-making going forward. Ask for updates such as, “We’re under budget for the quarter by 2.75%. We were able to realize these savings because of the software changes and consolidations we made in the first quarter. Also in addition to this budget line item savings, my team has gained at least 3 hours each month by not having to manage so many agreements with their various usage rates and charges.” An update like this is great and it’s reaffirming that a good decision was made. However, what if the update was something like this, “We’re under budget for the quarter by 2.75%. We were able to realize these savings because of the software changes and consolidations we made in the first quarter. However, even though my team no longer has to manage so many subscriptions, our productivity is down. Because we no longer have PREdox and the new system doesn’t index our purchase orders and invoices on the same screen for cross-referencing, my team now spends on average 3-4 times as long verifying invoices. Our processing times are way down and their frustration levels are way up, because they raised this concern during the evaluation period. I’m working with them to find a fix that saves money and increases productivity.” This type of update provides current status information, highlights gains by the initiative, but also shares the downsides or unintended consequences of decisions and actions made. In addition, it demonstrates the manager understands why the numbers are what they are, is taking ownership of the issue, and is working to identify solutions himself. He’s not delegating the analysis and decision-making to anyone else.
Even in situations where a key team member is counting down her final days on the job, focusing on closing out or transferring those responsibilities that have the most impact on and with others does more good in the long run than scurrying around trying to cross every ‘T’ and dot every ‘I’. Explaining why specific tasks really matter and the impact your work has on others shows others you care about them and their ability to perform and succeed. Once people understand the why, they can often figure out the how.
Once people understand the why, they can often figure out the how.
So if you’re in a situation where you have team members who don’t seem to really understand the importance of their roles, or who have never been asked to think deeper about the work they do, or if your team needs to make decisions on what initiatives to continue and which to cut, focus on impact. It will help you make decisions that can save you time, money, and frustration. By becoming aware of the impact of the work being done, you and your team will start to become more intentional about the work you do and the decisions you make.
Copyright MMXXIII – Liz Weber, CMC, CSP – Weber Business Services, LLC – www.WBSLLC.com +1.717.597.8890
Liz supports clients with strategic and succession planning, as well as leadership training and executive coaching. Learn more about Liz on LinkedIn!