This completes thoughts introduced on January 11, 2011 at JimMillikenProject.blogspot.com
People use PowerPoint too much. It’s easier than writing, preparing and practicing a persuasive message to be delivered by looking at people and winning them over.
People send email – a LOT of email. Boatloads of email. It’s easier.
People converse about complex issues rather than research and organize them into effective reports than can be studied. Hey, who’s going to read it, anyway?
People avoid disagreeable situations because it’s easier to just go along.
Say it aloud: “Well, it’s easier to do it this way.” Rolls smoothly off the tongue, doesn’t it? We’re used to it. We’re acculturated to describe the easier way as the better way. Why is it better? Because it’s easier, that’s why.
When we pursue such ways of thinking, it is equally easy to be convinced that nothing can be done about the general mediocrity of our output. We become comfortable with the hangdog recognition that we pretty much never really found the track, and we’re a-wandering in that wasteland where zombie projects go. It’s easy to see all the reasons why it all could never have worked.
Changing such a culture is NOT easy.
That is because the process of accomplishing effective and worthwhile results often isn’t comfortable. The first step toward creating a culture of quality accomplishment is to ban comfort. That’s right, ban comfort.
And then you enshrine results. We don’t do things around here because they’re easy – we do them because they get us what we set out to get.
This doesn’t happen silently or subtly. It is brought about by people who look the essential problem in the eye, and declare it no longer acceptable. We’ve had too much acceptance of low-grade stuff around here. We’re better than that. We explicitly commit ourselves, in the presence of our colleagues, to institutionalize the practices that will produce the outcomes that will make us proud.
That group commitment must be immediately and seamlessly implemented by establishing and rigorously observing processes that make quality happen.
First, nothing happens without a clear definition of what it is, what its results will look like and what it will take to make it happen. People get clear assignments, resources are specifically allocated, risk is thoroughly managed and quality is enforced. We take responsibility, communicate properly, engage problems early and directly.
We redefine our use of the concept of “easy.” Now we say, “It’s easier to anticipate problems and head them off than it is to wait for them to jump on you.” Or: “Most of my serious problems are people problems, so my job will be easier if I spend more time on my people before there are problems.”
We look first to the rewards of our intended outcomes, thereby establishing a context in which what is to be done and what must be overcome diminish in our perception of difficulty.. The momentum toward success builds to the point that we brush aside issues that might once have stalled or diverted us. They used to be big problems, but now we barely see them because we’re so tightly focused on getting to the places we see so clearly beyond them.
Among those fading issues are slapdash communication, sloppy execution and even that old stopper, do-it-yourselfism. Doing things right becomes easy when we’re all in this together. Prominent among them are clear communication and crisp execution. Oh, and role definition and teamwork.