Have you ever played a game of Football (Yes American football, not soccer :P) , where everyone comes into the huddle, and the quarterback says something along the lines of “Ok, you’re going to run diagonal, you’re going to run straight and then cut right, and then you’re going to go straight for the end-zone — got it?! BREAK!”
…Then once the ball is hiked, the plan somehow flies out the window and everyone runs in their own direction irrelevant of what was discussed in the huddle.
Similarly, I see this same problem happen all the time in business after meetings and phone calls. While on a call or in a meeting, everyone is on the same page. Ideas are discussed, plans of action are created, everyone knows what they need to do, and the plan is set in motion. The excitement is palpable for the execution on the way.
Yet somehow, one week later, many of these items were only half completed and we didn’t accomplish what we wanted to. How the hell did things happen like this?!
The reality is, many times what is discussed in a meeting or phone call isn’t always acted upon, or is acted upon incorrectly. This is what I like to call…
The “Huddle/Break” problem
People discuss ideas during meetings, fail to document them, and then run back to previous responsibilities and forget all about what they were supposed to do.
It’s human nature. People want to do what they find most interesting. They put off the boring things and go after what excites them most. If what is said doesn’t strike a chord with the individual, it will probably get brushed under the rug in your never ending to-do list.
I also believe that people understand the same things differently. For example, you can tell me to complete research, but my idea of research and your idea of research might be two completely different things. Next thing you know a week passes and the research is complete, but done differently than the person who asked for it had envisioned.
So what is the solution?
Documentation + Followups = Accountability.
It’s important that you not only document what was said, but also document points of action with incredibly thorough steps and procedures. Then, hold each other accountable through followups for what was discussed over a call/meeting.
If two weeks go by and nothing has been acted upon, you have to follow up and make sure it gets done. Otherwise, people will all eventually veer off in their own directions and do what they want. It’s human nature.
I believe that all of these mistakes happen because of improper documentation. Either something wasn’t written down, wasn’t written down the right way, or wasn’t written down with enough detail.
Take for example the research from above – Maybe the research wasn’t ever documented and someone just asked you to “get it done.” Or maybe they wrote it down but didn’t give clear instructions. Or maybe the instructions they gave you didn’t have enough detail to execute.
If it’s not documented, it doesn’t get done properly. If you want something to be done properly, write it down and set up systems for follow-ups.
It’s also important that we have room for “audibles”. In football, you can walk up to the line of scrimmage and see that the defense is going to rip your play call to shreds. In this moment, it’s important the QB has an audible so that the team can change their plan and execute on a new one.
Similarly, we need audibles in a business context when things can’t get completed properly. We need contingency plans. If a week goes by and you aren’t able to get done what was promised you now must call an audible and change what you promised you would do.
Now, communication is a huge aspect of audibles. I’ve seen people make excellent audibles, but not tell the rest of the team. The downside to this? if you make an audible without telling the rest of the team, your QB will get blindsided and perhaps suffer from a concussion 😛
Hopefully this problem I have experienced with my own team will help you to stay focused, stay organized, and stay accountable to each other. It will help you all to remain on the right track, and get done what needs to be done. It will help you to work better as a team, and make sure that you get all of the touchdowns you need for your business to survive.
Thoughts? Similar experiences? Let me know in the comments below!
Also published on Medium.