Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Connect the Dots

Did you do Dot-to-Dot puzzles when you were a child?  Many were like this where some of the picture is provided and you finished it yourself by connecting the dots.  If you were experienced, you might have even guessed what the picture was before you finished the puzzle.

Leaders, especially senior leaders, are often frustrated that they have to "connect the dots" for their teams.  They've provided the outline and believe that, like the picture above, it's enough of a head start such that their employees can take it from there. 

In reality, what they get looks like the result of a dot-to-dot that wasn't numbered.  Either a completely different result (picture) than what was expected, or no result at all because people didn't know where to start.  

Take for example a strategic plan.  If you deliver the plan to your teams with no further direction, you've basically sent them a dot-to-dot with no numbers.  They need to know how to connect that plan to their functions, roles, and responsibilities.  When you number the dots, you provide the direction such that they can see what you expect, they know where to start, and they know when they're done. 

One of the best ways to connect the dots to a strategic plan is to set individual and team goals in performance plans with wording that specifically ties to the plan. 

And it's not just strategic plans, it's internal communications, directives, policies, etc.  How does that information relate to your team?  What, if anything, do they need to do differently?  WIIFM (What's In It For Me) says the team, and the leader responds by drawing the dots and numbering them.

What's obvious to senior management is not obvious to junior management is not obvious to individual contributors.  Invest the time to connect the dots up front and then sit back and watch your organization reap the rewards.

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