A plan is only as good as the action that plays it out.
And that action is often only as good as the follow-up that occurs.
If it’s so important, what gets in the way of good follow-up?
Here are three of the main reasons:
1. Good follow-up isn’t “sexy” or exciting.
I was talking with my manager at a large high tech company where I worked at the time.
When I told him that some of his direct reports wanted him to visit their sites so he could see, hear and understand the good things they were doing to continuously improve, he replied, “I don’t like to do that. I like to go where the problems are.”
As he said that, I could imagine him leading an ambulance crew. In this mental image, I could see them working feverishly under bright emergency lights in the middle of the night, attempting to rescue people who’d been seriously injured in an accident.
That metaphor – and mental image – was in direct contrast to what his direct reports were asking him to do to support them as they tried to produce the results he needed from them. They wanted him to shift his attention from emergencies and problems to helping them create an environment in which accidents in their world were actively prevented or handled when they were still small.
Good follow-up not “sexy” or exciting?
Maybe. Maybe not.
But the good results that come from good follow-up definitely are.
2. It goes without saying that follow-up is important. As a result, it’s not planned or attended to, and doesn’t occur.
A colleague expressed one of her primary frustrations now in her busy company.
Meetings with her manager are often canceled as more immediate problems crop up in his world, and must be dealt with. The effect trickles down to her, and sometimes, to her employees, too.
“I have 100 things on my to-do list. You tell me which one is the most important? How do I sort them out?
“The one that I’m going to do is the one that’s staring me in the face, or that someone is screaming at me about.”
3. It’s easy to assume that because you ask someone to do something, they will.
Another manager I worked with told people what he needed from them.
He told them when it was due.
But as the manager of a team of mostly new employees, many of them just out of college, he didn’t realize that he needed to periodically follow-up in simple and consistent ways to see what support or correction they might need as they settled into their new jobs.
Fairly quickly, a pattern was set in the group that it really wasn’t safe to bother him with questions or ask for help. The work just needed to get done, some way, somehow.
As a result, work often took two to three times as long as it needed to. Employees often “didn’t know what they didn’t know.” And without timely monitoring and follow-up, problems usually weren’t discovered until they’d become large and difficult to solve.
Good follow-up doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming.
I’ll address some of the ways you can create simple, effective follow-up processes in my next blog post.
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