How to Build Accountability into Your Strategy

Have you ever had a great planning meeting, one where everyone left excited about a new initiative, and then...nothing happened?  It's an easy trap to fall into. Maybe there was lack of clarity on next steps. Maybe some team members weren't fully convinced. Maybe it didn't feel like a priority. Next time, you can solve for all these potential let downs by building accountability into your strategy session.

We spend a lot of time thinking about how to make meetings more actionable at GXG. As a growing business ourselves, we have plenty of opportunities to use our team as guinea pigs for new tips and tricks. At our new year planning meeting, COO Megan Kogan debuted a new exercise to help us kick off Q1 with some real momentum. The only thing you need before you start  are your team goals.  This works best if you limit the scope. So what do we want to achieve "next month", "next quarter", or maybe within one team-wide project.


To start, have an open brainstorming session. For about 15 minutes, everyone gets to write down things they need or want to help meet the company goals. We use sticky notes on flip charts or a white board. Encourage everyone to treat this as a wish list. The majority of ideas will probably be practical, but if there's a new, cool tool that would make things easier, stick it up there!


Next, gather in front of your sticky display. With new flip charts or some extra whitespace, discuss as a team which items are "need to have" and which are "nice to have". One person can help lead this session and move the sticky notes to the appropriate area, grouping similar items together. The most important thing is to have a clear time limit! You don't want to spend all day discussing the nuances of each idea. 15-20 minutes is enough. Get the general consensus now and note that no idea gets thrown away; it just may not be as vital to your goals. 


Once you have general agreement on the things your team needs to have to achieve your goals, each one gets put to a final test: is someone willing to own it? Every sticky note is now a job that must be done by a member of your team. Again as a group, assign each "need to have" sticky note to a role on your team. Start by taking volunteers, but the group should decide that each assignment makes sense. Does this person have the time, ability and resources? Is this a natural extension of their role? If any role starts to look overburdened, move a sticky or two back to "nice to have". To hold people accountable, you have to set them up for success. 


At our planning meeting, every role ended up with about three new projects to complete within the quarter. We now have a weekly meeting where we review progress on our three needle moving items only. What we did this week, what we plan to do next week, and where we need help. It's a quick window into how the company is doing. It's also a great motivator! It's totally fine if you make no progress one week, as long as you can explain to your team why your priorities shifted. 

One of the surprise benefits of this exercise was how creative some team members got with their weekly reports. Some of us like graphs, some pretty project trackers, and sometimes we get to show off finished projects! As always, we encourage you to be flexible and have fun. You have great ideas. Building in accountability make certain that your ideas lead to action.

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