What if there was a secret formula for success: a simple, easy-to-understand, repeatable formula that you could follow that would improve our results?
If there is a formula for success, then it doesn’t seem to be well-known. IBM states that 60 percent of all IT projects fail, Bloomberg research shows that 80 percent of all first-time businesses fail within the first 18 months, and according to Forbes 95 percent of all product launches fail.
Failure is everywhere. It’s all around us, and it impacts our customers, our companies, and most of all it impacts us. It can be very difficult for careers to recover from a serious failure.
After having spent over 20 years turning around underperforming departments, failing projects and transforming large complex organizations, it gave me a great insight to failure, as the first thing I had to do was understand what was causing the failure and then fix it.
In my experience most projects and departments are failing, or underperforming, because of the same four reasons, the same common mistakes, which are:
So if we can increase our performance in each of these areas, then we should improve our performance, and consequently, our results.
Focus is about the what: what is your goal, what is your objective, what does success look like. Too often people are focused on the wrong things, and when you’re focused on the wrong things, failure is inevitable.
I love Einstein’s quote: “If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.” This was to ensure that he would be focused on the right things, solving the wrong problem while interesting doesn’t help achieve our goal.
To increase our focus we need to have clarity over our objectives, keep our priorities to a minimum and communicate them to our teams.
Accountability is about the who: who is going to do the work, do they know what they role is, and how are we going to hold them accountable.
Too often things fail because people didn’t know what it was they were supposed to do, and tasks get left undone.
Accountability is about ensuring that we have the right person assigned to the right tasks with the right skills and the right expectations clearly communicated.
To increase accountability, we need clear roles and responsibilities, clear communication, and we need to be accountable. Leadership defines culture and if you want a culture of accountability then it starts with you.
Simplicity is about the how: how are we planning to achieve our goal, have we kept our how as simple as possible?
Complexity killed more initiatives than just about anything else, and given we have a natural tendency to overcomplicate things, this is a major concern. As leaders one of our key tasks is to keep things as simple as possible, to get our teams to focus on Simplicity. To fight against this tendency to overcomplicate if we can do that we can make our tasks so much easier. Complexity hinders our understanding, and when we lack understanding it causes us to lose focus too.
To increase simplicity, we need to eliminate any unnecessary tasks, keep communication clear and simple, and look to maximize understanding.
Transparency is about truth and knowledge: the knowledge of what’s fully required to be successful and truth about our actual performance.
Too often we underestimate the effort involved, and then we end up under-resourced, or we are too bold with our estimates, which then leads to cost overruns and delays. Initiatives are like icebergs we only see the top third of what’s needed, and it’s the two-thirds below the water that sink us.
We also need to have transparency of our performance so that we can see the progress made, to see whether or not we are on track. When we lack this visibility, it’s like we are running a race-blind folded, after a while we don’t know where we are, don’t know where the competition or the finishing line is, yet somehow still believe that we will be successful.
To increase our transparency we need to make sure that we fully understand what’s involved, don’t just stop at the third we can see, but dig deeper, look under the hood, and lift the carpet, we need to create a plan of progress that we track our actual performance against,
In my simple way of thinking, if the majority of initiatives fail because of poor performance in these four areas, then improving them will improve our results.
I have used this approach to deliver $100 million programs, turn around $200 million departments, I have used it to coach clients to increase their profitability, and operational performance and I have also used to achieve personal goals such as writing a book, building an online community and running my first marathon at 52.
So this is my simple recipe for success.
Focus + Accountability + Simplicity + Transparency = Success
FAST has worked for me, it has worked for my clients and it will work for you!
If you want to learn more about FAST then click HERE!