Hold fire before rushing to implement your summer holiday “good ideas”
In this guest article, Ben Collins, Partner at Oliver Wight EAME, discusses why it is important to rethink your holiday-triggered business ideas before implementing them.
School’s back, holidays are over, and executives and business owners will be coming back refreshed and armed with good ideas for new initiatives they have thought up while taking a well-earned August break.
Maybe you want to introduce AI, become a B Corp or perhaps get everyone back in the office every day? Whatever it is, first… hold fire!
A great initiative that has you fired up may have the opposite effect on your team or, worse, hold back your whole business. Make sure you follow these steps to ensure that by the end of the autumn, you aren’t rueing the day you thought it up.
Regardless of whether it’s a good idea or even an amazing idea, the first key question you must ask yourself is “how does this get us to X, where X is one of your business’s important strategic objectives”. It’s not sufficient for it to be a good idea, it needs to be strongly connected to delivering your strategy. If it doesn’t then it’s simply a distraction from the important stuff and you need to drop it straight away.
Still think it is a good idea that helps deliver your strategy? Then next you need to discuss it with your senior team. Do they concur… that is genuinely and strongly concur, rather than weakly and politely not object? Are they going to be committed to “lean in” on delivering it. If you don’t carry the strong support of your senior team, the initiative will founder later as the project builds, creates work to be done and problems to be overcome.
Your senior team likes the sound of it? Well, the third step is to consider if your great idea is going to be more beneficial for your business than all the other stuff your teams are already working on.
After all, your team are already working hard on creating, launching, embedding or fixing a whole range of initiatives. Which of these are you going to stop to free up time for your new idea. Crucially, don’t simply add it to everyone’s workload without lightening it elsewhere or you simply create less time for your people to do a good job, and increase the chances of a bad one.
Should you launch your new project now – after all, you and your senior team think it will be a strategic win, and you’ve identified projects to kill off to make room for it.
Not yet! There is still work to be done. There’s the very important “people bit” that really decides if an initiative will fly or crash.
You’ve come back refreshed from your holiday. But your team may well be in a very different frame of mind. You need to temperature check whether your people are resilient enough for another project on top of everything else they are managing, whether through discussions, 1-2-1’s or surveys. The reality is most teams are already reeling from five years of constant disruption and change. Many are still trying to digest and implement the previous changes, and the last thing they want is more change.
The last thing you want is for your new project to die through initiative fatigue. You need to know if it is something your organisation is ready for and, if not, think how you get them ready.
Part of this problem, which I often encounter, is once a business has decided on implementing a project, management often jumps straight to providing training and information to employees about what new things they now need to do.
But they fail to prepare their people first with the “why” a change is needed. Without your employees understanding the “why” and the “what’s in it for me”, there will be no desire for your solution as there is no recognition of the problem being solved… in fact there will be a negative reaction as many people are hardwired to dislike change.
Given the huge changes to our work and personal lives from Covid-19, energy and price increases, and the impact on businesses of sourcing and supply chain problems, everyone’s resilience is running pretty thin, especially as the problems seem to keep building.
However, regardless of the tribulations of the past few years, in my experience from dozens of such transformation projects over the past 20 years, the overwhelming reason for their failure is down to the leadership team and specifically the project’s sponsor, not employees’ receptiveness.
The sponsor, whether you or another senior executive, has the critical role of giving leadership, direction and top-level clout to ensuring your new project stays on track, and the biggest reason for project failure in my experience is them totally underestimating the level of time, commitment and soft skills involved to make it happen.
So, if you do go ahead with your summer holiday great idea after thinking carefully about it and discussing it widely with colleagues – make sure you, or whoever ultimately takes the lead, really really has sufficient time and commitment to make it a stunning success.