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Ten Tips for Accelerating Your Team's Execution

August 19, 2010

Over time, individual teams and whole organizations establish a standard pace. This pace can easily become unnecessarily lethargic. The trick is to regulate the pace, keeping it as high as possible without provoking burn-out. Executing at a brisk pace keeps your team energetic and fresh. Here are ten acceleration strategies that can help you and your team pick up the pace.

1. Identify an “enemy.”

Focus your people’s attention on an enemy outside the organization. Perceived enemies and challengers can be powerful motivators. Threats, properly introduced, stir energy and action.  A clear and present danger, such as a threatening competitor, gives us a purpose and a reason for acting. It reminds your team (your “tribe”) that to survive, you must huddle and hunt together.

2. Break the decision gridlock.

Identify and break the unnecessary links in your organization’s chain of authorization and decision making. Establish clear decision criteria, agree on decision making alternatives, and insist on decision deadlines, especially for crisis situations and urgent, time-bound matters. When possible, negotiate arrangements up front that enable you and your team to take on greater decision-making authority, within prescribed boundaries.

3. Develop contingency plans and work-arounds.

Projects seldom, if ever, go as planned. Speedy and successful execution is not a matter of perfect planning, but of preparation to handle inevitable glitches. Effective team leaders help their teams anticipate breakdowns and worst-case scenarios.  They build in skills and plans to make corrections as they are needed during the project’s execution. Fast and effective recovery is the key. No problem can damage you seriously or slow you down for long if your team knows how to recover quickly.

4. Set the bar higher.

Regularly, set a new aim or goal and try to improve even more. Use the excitement of improvement to keep the attention up and the challenge of a difficult goal to combat business as usual. Watch out for weakening targets and satisfaction with progress so far. Find ways to renew the creative spirit and passion for improvement.

5. Establish momentum-building milestones.

Many projects and initiatives happen over extended periods of time. Before people’s energy flags on the long journey, establish milestones or benchmarks in order to make progress visible. Celebrating interim results and progress toward the goal spurs movement toward the next small victory. In addition, milestones also allow a leader, early in the process, to discern whether the team is proceeding at the required pace and, if necessary, to make adjustments that speed up efforts.

6. Develop a sense of urgency.

Urgency means having an attitude that the job should have been done “yesterday.” For some, this is an inner drive and desire to attack an issue or get on a job quickly and get it done fast. This inner drive is an impatience that motivates them to get going and to keep going. To take fast action, people need to have the right level of vitality, alertness and emotional tension. Leaders who can model the way for others can “light a fire” underneath those who are more cautious or less inclined to dive into the work with zeal. Leaders can also communicate the “burning platform” that overcomes complacency and generates productive activity.

7. Insist on elegant simplicity.

Make your organization easy to work in and work with. Ensure that the structure, processes and policies that you establish minimize bureaucracy. Where possible, identify bottlenecks, simplify procedures, and reduce steps. Do these things not only within your own team, but in the established routines and regular exchanges your team has with others across the organization.

8. Address conflicts and breakdowns immediately.

A tremendous amount of lost productivity occurs when conflicts and breakdowns go unaddressed. While personality clashes, communication issues, and undelivered commitments are not easy to address, the best leaders do not hesitate to confront them and help resolve them.  The sooner they intervene, the faster they can realize the full potential output of the team.

9. Encourage rapid experimentation.

Manage projects and initiatives as experiments and accelerate innovation. Shift the mindset to encourage an approach of “fail early and often.” Organizations that can rapidly test and develop ideas have a tremendous advantage over slower competitors who spend too much time planning and polishing their ideas to perfection. An additional benefit of a rapid experimentation culture is that it creates a stimulating and energetic environment where employees take pride in seeing new concepts and ideas come to life.

10. Inject playfulness and fun.

Humans have an inherent attraction to play. Effective leaders tap this by both allowing spontaneous playfulness and humor in the workplace and planning for it as well. Play and humor can lift the spirit, create camaraderie, and provide a brief respite from routine that enables people to return with renewed energy to the tasks at hand.

© 2010 Linkage, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

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