Implementing plans is hard for teams. I get it. I see it all the time.

Struggling to implement plans is one key roadblock most teams have in common. I’ve worked with countless teams over the years to overcome planning issues.  I’ve noticed they all seem to get caught up in the same kinds of energy-sapping, time-draining mistakes. Even when their plans progress, they pay a high price in terms of lost productivity, team morale, and often, lost business. You or someone on your team is likely suffering the consequences of at least one of the five common mistakes I’ve identified. Fortunately, you can learn how to identify them, too – and fix them, so you can recover team trust, time and other scarce resources. The five mistakes are:

  1. Fuzzy plans
  2. Lack of reporting team progress 
  3. Not using tools
  4. No support for task managers
  5. No accountability (below)

In this series of five articles, I’ll be highlighting one of these problems each week. By looking at these one at a time (which is a great strategy to help teams overcome roadblocks: one at a time!), you’ll have the chance to consider how you can implement these fixes at work and with your volunteer teams.  If you’d rather read the entire report immediately, you can access it here. As a bonus, the full report also includes clarifying tips to help you improve your team’s plan implementation!

Last week, I talked about Mistake #4: when there is no support for your task managers or status managers. Click here if you’d like to read that article now.

Mistake #5: Not holding team members accountable to the plan and to the team.

Years ago, I was managing the paperwork to close a high 6-figure deal, and all I needed was for the people who worked several levels above me to sign it. The project had been in the hopper for years and finishing it was deemed a priority by the organization. I had crossed all of the “t”s and dotted all of the “i”s, checked and re-checked the numbers and made certain that all of the players were truly committed and on board. Yet when push came to shove, my supervisor’s supervisors refused to move forward on the needed documentation.

The worst part about this? I was held responsible when the deal fell through.

Nobody recognized that I had tried every strategy I knew to get that paperwork through the higher-ups. But they certainly took notice when, as a result of the stalled deal, the project was held up for another year! I was angry and felt betrayed, and I knew precisely who had not been held accountable: the very same people blaming me for the failure.

This may be the final, and most important, mistake. That’s because at the end of the day, the buck has to stop somewhere. It’s why you assign responsibility to team members, some of whom might work above you or outside of your immediate office. If they let their tasks slide or keep ignoring deadlines, the project can stall, and you aren’t likely to see the progress you need.

Fix for Mistake #5: Every team member – up and down the ladder – must be held accountable for their responsibilities. 

This could be the most difficult mistake of all to fix, I know, but even a little progress will be worth your time and effort. Here are strategies to help you do it:

  • Make sure you personally are up to date on progress. Carefully review project status regularly, ask questions when things are not clear, and don’t accept unclear answers to questions. Don’t blame your status manager or even your project manager if the confusion or problem really starts with a team member.
  • Check in with your team often. Ask questions about their tasks, how they are progressing and if they need any specific help from you or anyone else to complete those tasks.
  • Clarify consequences and communicate these to the team. Make sure they understand and acknowledge what will happen when they meet deadlines – and when they miss them.
  • Make certain that brief, clear status reports are delivered to the team regularly and promptly. If team members have up-to-the-minute information, they can’t use that old favorite excuse of “I didn’t know!”
  • Get the support you need to hold those above you accountable to the plan. Find a champion who can influence them. Invite your supervisor to attend team meetings so they can hear the details – and see first-hand the stress affecting team members who are stuck. Remind everyone about the goals you have been asked to reach, and point out how they can help the team stay accountable.
  • Don’t give up!

Fixing these Top 5 Mistakes Everybody Makes Trying to Implement Plans is possible! Your efforts to eliminate (or minimize) these obstacles can guide your team to a successful implementation of the plan. Download the complete series here.

Help us Help YOU

What roadblocks to accountability have you experienced? Leave a comment below to tell us. We pledge to provide you with insight and solutions to help you build success for every one of your teams.

Kay Coughlin, CEO, Facilitator on Fire, is passionate about helping teams make confident decisions and plans in unbelievably productive workshops.


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