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July 2004

The Coaches Corner

This Month's Question

We just launched several ambitious projects aimed at breakthroughs in time to market and bigger results in the same or shorter time period. In what areas should I (as executive champion) focus my attention?

Our Advice

Remember that breakthrough initiatives aim for unprecedented business results through new ways of thinking and working. In conventional projects the emphasis is developing then executing the project plan. In breakthrough initiatives success is based on commitment, collaboration, unconventional approaches and creatively resolving setbacks. Merely focusing on the project plan will drive the team back into conventional performance.

  1. Aim to be visibly on a new trajectory after 4 months.
    Attend to: (1) Challenging the team to aim for a demonstrated improvement in an aspect of the business. To only have 'planning' milestones is unacceptable. (2) The team developing a sound approach to the major milestone and the final result. Expect the project plan to be incomplete; there will be unknowns that the team has not yet addressed.
  2. The team is acting in breakthrough mode, internally and externally.
  3. Externally: A community of interest and support is being built up front. The success of the project usually involves engaging others earlier than the conventional approach. The team is breaking down barriers.

    Attend to : The project team is "talking up" their project: their goals, the projected impact and progress. The team is conveying their personal commitment. They are actively seeking out input from new sources.

    Internally: The team is demonstrating behavior consistent with their bold ambition.

    Attend to: (1) The team is challenging the way things are done, (2) People are doing what they say, (3) Issues are being raised openly and early and addressed before they are a bottleneck, (4) Team members are hearing "it won't work" and asking "why? What are we missing?" rather than getting defensive.

  4. You are developing informal communication with the team leader and with the team.
  5. Attend to: Frequent informal, touch-base communications. Use your intuition to stimulate new thinking and action. Tell the team your views. Talk it through so they can appreciate what you see. Explore what would make a difference and specific actions they will take. Make sure the team is being open and transparent with you.

  6. You are providing positive acknowledgment often.
  7. Attend to: Find something to acknowledge - show your appreciation for all accomplishments, small and large. A team that feels acknowledged is able to deal with issues and concerns much more effectively than a team that rarely hears appreciation.

To achieve unprecedented results you must attend to these areas with diligence. One executive used these principles to keep 3 growth projects worth $100 million in revenue on track.

Good fortune to you!



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