Were you at BSAVA this year? It was my first trip to this congress since migrating back to the UK. It was a good event and I saw some fantastic new pieces of equipment that were unthinkable even five years ago, plus there were some interesting new ideas floating around the exhibit hall and bars of Brindley Place.
In today’s blog I want to double down on the concept that ideas alone are not worth your time. But ideas coupled to execution are what will drive your business forward.
Ideas suck and execution is everything
You many have noted as you go through life that the correlation between those with lots of ideas and success is poor. This is because having an idea on its own changes nothing but your emotional state. An idea is a figment of imagination and without some action to bring it forth into reality, remains nothing but a collection of excited neural pathways. Ideas people are frequently crippled by an inability to focus on one idea for long enough to make anything of it.
Whether any idea goes on to create a lasting change in the world comes down to your ability to think about how to make that idea a reality through action. And unless you are a one-man-band busking to the crowds in a tourist hotspot, chances are those actions are going to involve and need support from the rest of your team. Without that support, the idea is dead.
So what practical steps must you take to turn an idea a reality?
Just as it is when setting a fire in a log burner, there is a sequence of steps that must be followed if your spark of an idea is to turn into a raging blaze that makes a difference.
Create a plan - don't just come home from a veterinary conference, hyper-exited, ranting like a deranged lunatic and start changing everything. This will freak your team out, alienate you and guarantee a frustrating failure as no-one moves to support your change. (How many pieces of expensive, care-changing equipment rot in a drawer or under a sheet, under-utilised, because no-one really made a plan for who was going to use them and when?
Instead, take a beat, let the excitement dissipate and think rationally about things. Does it still seem like a good idea after a couple of days? If so, then move on to step two.
What's your why? 'Whats' are things we do, ‘whys' are reasons that motivate us. If your idea doesn’t have a good reason that everyone can get behind, then your plan is doomed to fail.
Set a measurable objective - Every good plan starts with an assessment of where you are now and where you want to be when you implement successfully. This is your objective and it needs to be defined clearly. Is your objective to perform ten additional ultrasound scans of dogs per week? Get it written down with crystal clarity.
Win hearts and minds (part 1) - Discuss your plan with key allies. You need two things here. First, a sense check. Are there any obvious landmines on the road ahead you didn’t spot that will blow your plan to pieces? Second, you need momentum to overcome the resistance to change. So who are your allies that get stuff done and have good interpersonal skills such that they can influence others within your team?
Win hearts and minds (part 2) - how will you negate your strongest resistors? Every practice has them. These are the “Negative Nellies". Though they can be frustrating, they are also very valuable if you know how to handle them. Negative Nellies need to be reframed as extreme problem solvers.
If you want your Negative Nelly to engage with your idea you must give them a problem to solve in the context of your change plan. Do this by telling them about the plan in confidence and asking them if there is any reason why it would fail?
Once they have given you their list, do two things. 1. Read it - the list will have some very valid things on there that you may not have considered. 2. Agree that it is probably won’t work and ask them how they would solve the problems?
Watch as your Negative Nelly magically becomes an engaged team member invested in making it happen.
Communicate the plan widely - now you have created a strong plan it’s time to tell everyone about it. Call a team meeting, send email, have one-to-one meetings with key team members to work out what everyone needs to do to make this a success. Think about the right message, at the right time, via the right communication channels to reach everyone. Try to keep your messages relevant to your different sub-audiences (Client care, nurses, vets…)
Start - just get going. Send on the marketing campaign. Book people on the training required. Unveil the equipment. Whatever is involved, start taking the small steps that bring the idea to life.
Measure. Review. Adjust - what’s working? What’s failing? Ask questions. Listen to your team, this will keep them engaged and where appropriate, make adjustments based on their feedback.
Celebrate wins and learning - when people move with you, make sure to recognise this publicly.
Cement progress - when bits of the plan work, feed this information back into the system - in doing so you are blowing oxygen on the flames you have kindled so far. Case studies and shared stories of success are great examples of how this can work well.
Keep going - inertia is difficult to overcome. Once you have momentum you have done the hard yards. Keep going until a new normal is established.
By following these steps you maximise the chances of allowing your idea to enter the world with impact. And not looking like a crazy person who just got back from a conference. 😉
Any questions, you know where to find me.
Have a great week.