You now need to work out what you (and your team) are actually going to do in order to reinforce and improve. A plan of action. Don’t generate this in isolation – involve your team, either as a group or as individuals. Talk them through the inputs and lead them through a further round of analysis to test and build on your thinking. You’ll need to facilitate the dialogue from ‘we need to do something in this space’ to ‘we need to do something that addresses this particular requirement’ to ‘we need to do this specific thing or set of things’.
Get as detailed as you can about what you’re going to do. Challenge yourselves to be as precise as possible and as confident of success as you can be. How will the action bring about the desired results? What are the desired results – how will you all know that you have been successful? What will the improvement look and feel like to everyone who benefits? Is it guaranteed to work, or is it an experiment? How long is it likely to take? Who will need to do what to make it happen? Who will be responsible for leading the activity?
Try to avoid tying your objectives to numerical targets, they can drive the wrong behaviours and cause everyone to lose sight of the true intention.
Don’t set any output limits for brainstorming and developing potential actions – who knows what great ideas you might miss if you stop the discussion before it’s run its course. Don’t set any input limits, either. Conduct research and consult with others. Look outside your team and look outside your organisation.
Once you believe you’ve identified all your options, it’s time to trim down to a manageable list of priorities.
If you’ve allowed your team to spread their creative problem-solving wings during the research, analysis and brainstorming, you’ll probably have quite a mixed bag of ideas to consider. Some may be unrealistic. Others may be too ambitious. Some may not be ambitious enough. Every contribution, however, should be taken seriously and treated fairly and with respect.
Don’t shy away from any feedback, no matter how you feel about it. Bear in mind that trying to make things better and not succeeding can still have a positive effect on team engagement. As can discussion about how to approach and address challenges that appear impossible at first glance. Even exercises focused on hypothetical objectives (‘We can’t change that, but if we could, what would we do?’) can have a positive effect.
Allow those conversations to happen and take part in them. Give your team the freedom to explore their ideas and draw their own conclusions. Let them be part of the decision-making process, help them to understand the decisions made and allow them to query and challenge.
Key to fair and effective prioritisation is the arrangement of all options into an order defined by how much effort each is likely to take versus how much impact each is likely to have. We recommend using the following chart to plot effort versus impact for each potential action on your shortlist:
Your immediate plan of action should focus on the ‘high priority’ items, balancing the quick wins with more complex undertakings. Try not to let any appetite for quick wins influence the outcomes of this process – some of the most important improvements may be complex undertakings that require gradual, incremental change.
Now you and your team have a solid foundation for your action plan, or rather: your programme of improvement projects. Allow a moment of congratulation, but this is where the real work begins.
Believe it or not, this series of projects is the most important work you’ll do, because it will, if successful, help to improve everything else. Remember, you are working to enhance team efficiency, productivity and performance. A happier team is an important part of that, but a high-performing team is your ultimate ambition.
So, treat it properly and professionally, like any other priority project. If it helps, think of this as your ‘enhanced team performance programme’ rather than your ‘improved team engagement programme’.
Give it due time, attention and resources – give it a life of its own. To succeed, all these actions need to be owned, sponsored, championed, led, monitored, supported, celebrated and embedded. This is not something you stop and start depending on when you are under scrutiny. This is something you’re doing for yourself, not for anyone else, because you understand and agree with the value of doing it. If you’re only doing it because someone else has told you to, it will never work.
At appropriate intervals, by yourself and with your team, review and update the programme, gathering fresh inputs when appropriate. Are you still heading in the right direction? Is everything you agreed and decided still valid? What progress has been made and what has changed? Is there opportunity to revisit potential actions that didn’t make the shortlist last time? Have some areas in your framework shifted from ‘improve’ to ‘reinforce’? Have others gone the other way?
When you do this is up to you. It might be helpful to align with other schedules, such as your organisation’s survey schedule, if it has one, but don’t let outside influences dictate too much – do what’s right for your plan and your team.
Speaking of which…