Feel like nothing ever gets done? Here's how you can figure out what's slowing you down.
Stop and think for a moment.
How many great decisions have you made this year that never got off the ground? Do you feel that you and your team are coming up with smart, competition-beating ideas, but you've lost the ability to execute on those ideas?
If you're missing the sense of achievement that comes from translating ideas into results-delivering reality, then chances are, it's because of one or more of these four reasons:
1. You have no idea how decisions are really made. Whether you manage a business, division, department, project, or team, you have to understand the path of information. How does information arrive into the group, how is it processed, and how is it turned into action? Understanding this process is the single most crucial determinant of your ability to execute.
Once you understand the process, ask yourself: Does the information flow get snarled? Does a decision have to be run by three different people before being approved? Or does your accounting software fail to give you high-quality data in a timely fashion? These examples are gaps in the process–gaps that will come between the ability of your group to make a decision.
You may want to really map out this process. Trace the path of the last two or three decisions your team made that weren't effectively and efficiently executed. Map where the necessary information came from, the main communication lines and key decision points.
When you're done, if you can easily make sense of what you see, all is good. If it looks like a rat's nest of intertwined, overlapping, dead-end-reaching lines, then you need to simplify your group's decision-making process.
2. You're a micromanager (Yes, you!). The ability of a group to execute effectively can be crushed by just one micromanager.
You know the type: The person that insists everything is 'run by them' and then becomes so overwhelmed by the volume of stuff being 'run by them' that they can barely come up for air.
Look around. Can you see the micromanager in your group? They're easy to spot. Find them and make them stop.
But if you can't find one, here's the thing: It's probably you. Micromanaging is so easy to see in others, but is much harder to see in ourselves.
Here's a full-proof test: Pick out the single most productive person in your group. Watch closely at how they get things done. If it includes finding multiple innovative ways to bypass you, then you're the problem.
3. You're rushing the decision. Remember when your business was small and life was simple? When a board meeting was a ride up in the elevator? When you could make three great decisions before breakfast and have them implemented by lunch? When communicating a decision was as simple as saying it out loud, because everyone was within hearing distance?
Now, life isn't that simple. Your business has grown and now has many more moving parts. And, chances are that the growth in complexity happened iteratively, over time, and like the proverbial frog in slowly heated water, you haven't noticed the effect on your decision-making.
Here's the difference: In the smaller, simpler business, you can make a decision fast, and implement it quickly. Now you have a larger, more complex business, making decisions fast actually slows down the implementation process–sometimes crippling it entirely.
Why? Because you made the decision so fast you didn't take into account all the variables (people, customers, systems) involved in your now more complex business.
Once a business has grown beyond infancy, speedy and effective implementation depends on slower decision-making. Not slow–you don't need to descend into to paralysis by analysis–just slower. Take a little longer to make the initial decision, and watch the rate of implementation rise.
4. You've worn everyone out. You're a passionate, engaged leader. You're intellectually curious, innovative, and not afraid of risk. You're full of great ideas and keen to implement them. Your people respect and admire you… and they're exhausted.
Do your team members avoid you on Monday mornings? Do they look apprehensive when you return from a two-week vacation?
If so, it's because they know weekends and holidays are dangerous times because that's when you come back to the office with five brilliant, must-do projects–even though they haven't finished implementing last month's brilliant, must-do projects.
If you suspect this might be you, then do yourself and your team a favor. Keep a list of all current projects. When you have a blinding flash of creativity which produces a new project, instead of simply adding it to the list, make a conscious, explicit decision about which existing project to drop off the list in return.
You'll find that compared with your existing priorities, many of those 'brilliant must-do's' just aren't that important, and those that do make the list will stand much more chance of actually being implemented.
More from Inc.com: