Are you winning?

Following the 5th Annual Greenlight Round the Rock marathon on the 1st August I thought it would be a good time to ask the question “Are you Winning?”. Even if you are winning or feel like you are winning how do you actually know?

Steve Way and Paul Martelletti knew they were winning even before they crossed the finishing line. How? Well, as Steve highlights in his blog he knew the time he was aiming for, he worked backwards from there by breaking the race down into milestones and focused his training sessions on reaching this goal.

So what does the road to success look like? In the next few sections of this blog I will be going through exactly this in relation to managing projects:

Start with the End in Mind

For the runners who entered the marathon, their “end” is that glorious moment of breaking through the red ribbon marking the finishing line. Visualisation of how success looks, feels & even tastes is a powerful cognitive technique often used by athletes to build motivation and focus ahead of the main event.

So how does this apply to your project? Visualising the desired end state – be it a new system, a merging of two departments or a complete office relocation – can set you on the right path for success.

Let’s take the example of a new system. Following an increase in customer complaints about the way in which their account is managed, a project has been initiated to implement a new system by 2016, to reduce the number of complaints by 20% on the old system per month immediately after go–live. Articulating your end goal in a SMART way makes the end result tangible and therefore seemingly more achievable going forward.

In short:

  • Visualise what success looks like
  • Set SMART goals
  • Plan backwards & outline the steps to reach your goal

Measuring Success

Dedicated marathon runners will probably know the distance they can run in 30mins, their personal best, their limits and their physical fitness when running.

Consider this, imagine someone without any training attempting a marathon. They will probably know if they’re winning or losing but they won’t be able to answer by how much? Without meaningful information, or data, how will they know if they’re successful?

Over time, without such measures in place and being understood, this will become increasingly difficult to determine. This is where “Lead” and “Lag” measures come into play;

Lag Measure – something that cannot be directly influenced (i.e. completing the race in under 6 hours)

Lead Measure – something that can be directly influenced & in turn influences the Lag Measure (i.e. increasing the distance run in training from 3 miles to 5 miles).

Let’s use something that we have all probably come across in some shape or form – wanting to lose weight. You want to lose weight but you cannot have your lead measure as “to lose 10lbs in 6 months” as you cannot directly influence this. However, you can increase time spent exercising per week from 2 hours to 4 and reduce daily calorie intake from 2000 to 1500, for example.

By focusing on what you can influence – in this example increasing time spent exercising and reducing calorie intake – this should influence your lag measure of losing 10lbs.

In short:

  • Be sure to measure the right things
  • Understand what you can influence (lead) vs what you can’t directly influence (lag)
  • Ensure there is a direct link between your lead and lag measures

If there’s a WIG there’s a Way

WIGs (not the hairy kind) stand for Wildly Important Goals. WIGs sit outside of the Whirlwind. To clarify your Whirlwind is considered your day to day activities. The purpose for all of this is to set a goal outside your day job and dedicating time each week to completing that WIG whilst being mindful of your whirlwind.

Essentially WIGs enable effective prioritisation on activities that will influence and be 100% aligned to your end goal. Revisiting the concept of planning backwards, WIGs support the execution of this plan to reach key milestones and move you closer towards your end goal – success.

As Eliot Lincoln, our CCO here at Greenlight often says “Would you rather do 10 things at 10% or 1 thing at 100%?” It may be easy to think that success means having complete 100% focus on working towards your end goal, but the reality is a lot of the time there are 101 things going on; the trick is knowing which 1 thing is the most important.

So ask yourself are you multi-tasking or multi-failing? This is where commitments can help. Commitments help maintain 100% focus on your WIG. 

In short:

  • Make time for your WIG by managing your Whirlwind
  • Ensure your WIG aligns to your end goal
  • Use commitments to keep focus on your WIGs

Visibility & Building Accountability

It is often said that as a solo runner you are your own competition. You are the only thing standing between success and, well, disappointment. The accountability begins and ends with you.

An example of the importance of not only accountability but visible accountability can be found in Seinfeld’s productivity technique “Don’t Break the Chain”. Seinfeld’s simple but powerful technique involves marking each day you worked towards your goal. 

This can be applied to your project. Committing to an activity or activities that will influence your WIG (i.e. signing off system requirements) is just like Seinfeld’s technique. Tracking commitments and how the measures are influenced in an easy to understand format can only help you on your road to success.

A simple scoreboard visible to all involved is a powerful means of building accountability around your WIGs – it is important you know if you are winning or not at a glance.

In short:

  • Everyone is held accountable in a personal way for their commitments
  • Know if you’re winning or not at a glance
  • Where possible use visual aids to track key measures

Whether you call them WIGs, goals, aims, targets, future state, ambitions, intentions or standard business objectives the point still stands; without experiencing the metaphoric moment of breaking through the red ribbon, how do you know if you’re winning or not?

Success is something we all strive for and it all starts with the end in mind. Once you have your goal pinned to the wall and your plan of action outlined in technicolour detail you should feel confident that you’ve started on the road to success one commitment at a time. To find out how Greenlight can help you get to your finish line and reap the rewards get in touch with us below. 

The Greenlight Engagement Catalogue is now live, a clear & concise summary of our previous engagements. It is an area of our website that can be searched or freely browsed by anyone. Starting with some selected highlights from the past three years, over time it will grow into a comprehensive guide to our past work.