By Dr. Scott Brooks
Partner and Vice President
Taking action can feel daunting, especially for managers who already have a hefty workload. Don’t let your managers feel lost. A successful survey project includes helping managers through the action planning process. Here, we offer the three most common obstacles managers cite when they struggle with action planning – and solutions for solving them. Challenge #1: The organization has unique challenges and my managers don’t know where to start. Many organizations are searching for an action planning prescription, hoping that someone can tell them what to do to improve, but you won't get the best result if you're outsourcing this important process. You need to have an insider's perspective for success as this is very personal to your organization or department. Yet taking a survey that might be 25 or 40 questions long and boiling it down to 2-3 focus areas is tricky. Do you start with the lowest scoring items? (Not necessarily.) The ones that you’d be most excited to tackle? (Again, nope.) Help your managers figure out the critical items by looking at the organization’s strategic priorities, and figure out which items will have the most impact. One client successfully created a culture of change by appointing one member of the project team to oversee the follow-up action; she would physically sit down with managers, help them understand their results and together they would choose areas for improvement, which were added into their performance reviews. Asking managers to step back and consider what they want to change – and why – can be incredibly effective. Still struggling? Some clients prefer to use our Action Prioritization tool, an AI-powered algorithm that automatically directs managers to the items most important to address, taking all the guesswork out of it. Managers can still choose their own action items, but it helps focus them on the top 2-3 areas worthy of their precious attention. Challenge #2: A manager knows what to improve, but not how. Choosing your action priorities is step one. Next, managers need to come up with specific ideas as to how they’ll create change. This is another potential roadblock for most managers, and a big one. Knowing you need to change something specific is one thing, but knowing the right way to do it is a completely different beast. For example, perhaps your action item relates to giving employees the capacity to work on promising new ideas. Do you allow employees to devote a chunk of their work to new ideas? Do you find an internal champion for new innovations? Or try to make a more systematic change? Again, our Action Tool can help, by providing managers with a targeted set of suggestions from our library of action ideas. They select what they want to work on, and our tool will offer various ideas. Managers can choose from our selections, editing or changing as needed or even creating their own, and then set target completion dates to make sure they stay focused. Challenge #3: We have good intentions but don’t seem to make much progress. Action planning is a lot like New Year's resolutions; you mean it at the time but within a month you’re binge watching Friends with a pint of Haagan Daaz. (Or, you know, taking care of your endless work to-do list of more immediate priorities.) Joking aside, studies show that the success rate of New Year's resolutions are just shy of 50% about six months later, and fall to 20% within two years. But there are ways to make change stick. First, make it social. New Year’s resolutions are ten times more effective than resolutions at other times of the year, in part because there is a collective atmosphere for self-improvement. In the workplace, this can take many forms; discuss it in company-wide newsletters, create opportunities for managers to share their plans, or have regular check-ins with the project team. Second, rhythms matter. This is another reason why New Year's resolutions work – there is a season for change. Set goals within a rhythm that makes sense for your organization, with check-ins at certain points, such as monthly or quarterly. Most importantly, help your managers live up to their own good intentions. Using OrgVitality’s Action Tool enables the project team to track progress and automatically nudge managers. These nudges make the ‘positive’ choice more obvious, and easier to commit to. To be effective, we work with organizations to ensure that nudges are customized to the specific goals for each organization, and implemented in a way that’s aligned with the culture. As with all other aspects of a survey project, leadership support is critical. One famous CEO we worked with was in the habit of unexpectedly calling managers to see what they’ve accomplished in their action planning efforts. As you might expect, knowing that the CEO might check-in at any point was an incredibly effective motivator. Want to learn more about OrgVitality's Action Tools? Email Dr. Brooks directly. Dr. Scott Brooks is a partner and vice president at OrgVitality, as well as the co-author of Creating the Vital Organization: Balancing Short-Term Profits with Long-Term Success. With over twenty-five years of experience in the industry, he consults with organizations and individuals to drive strategic change based on surveys, HR metrics, and research that illuminates the connections between leadership, operations, customer loyalty, and business results.