What might the founding fathers say about implementation to impact

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Happy Birthday, America! Two hundred, forty-one years into our Democracy and we’re still working to achieve our founding father’s vision.

Visionaries understood many of the complexities and perils of forming a new nation. Thankfully, they wrote specific, and enduring, direction for their successors. They knew there would be questions. They also appreciated the uncertainties future stewards of our young nation would face.

In this blog, I share a few thoughts our founding fathers might say about implementing to impact – the title of this post is, by no coincidence, the inaugural post for the blog by the same name.

First, a little perspective. In contemporary terms, this is one of the longest public projects. Much can be learned from the project log. During this period, we’ve had a few changes in leadership – 45 Project managers (presidents) and 115 guiding coalitions (Congress). Despite 27 amendments to the project charter (The Constitution), the work is unfinished. Maybe the U.S. is more like a program, consisting of many related projects. Something to ponder.

Advice from our founding fathers about implementation:

Create a Sense of Urgency – Inspire the minds, and hearts, of your people! Though the Declaration of Independence sent a clear message, it wasn’t universally accepted by all Colonialists. The forefathers knew they had to attract followers with a clear call to action. The Declaration itself was tremendously symbolic – however, it was the work that followed over decades that mattered most. Implementation Tip: Memos and speeches help to establish a vision, but on their own are insufficient to drive change. Be prepared for sustained engagement.

Build an Alliance – Without delegates, there can be no true representation and progress will stall. Change projects require a volunteer army of people to support the initiative. Getting buy-in from at least half of the organization helps to move from a “have to” to “want to” culture. Implementation Tip: A cadence of ongoing, and diverse (in-person, blog, social media, website, etc.), communication is needed to build and sustain an alliance. Create opportunities for team members to participate.

Form a Strategic Vision and Initiatives – By failing to plan, you are planning to fail. The vision and related objectives should be clear and measurable. Senior and middle managers must carry the message to the front line. Often. Implementation Tip: Leaders must walk the walk. Be visible. Roll up your sleeves. Help teams and individuals understand how their contribution will contribute to achieving the vision.

Enable Action and Remove Barriers – Build bridges, not walls. So many organizations have restrictive policies and practices that slow or prevent progress. Busting through bureaucracy is a key role for leaders and managers. Clear the path for teams to succeed. Implementation Tip: Ask teams what stands in their way. Remove or help them navigate barriers. Once barriers are addressed, the manager assumes a coach role to help teams achieve their full potential. Sometimes, the greatest help a leader provides to their team is permission to stop doing things that don’t matter.

Create Short-Term Wins – If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. Identify milestones along the journey. Celebrate early wins. Sustained, ongoing communication about progress helps to reinforce the change is really happening. Implementation Tip: Create a communication plan to drive messages through the organization. Enlist senior leaders, middle managers and even informal leaders to drive messaging through the line.

We hope these reflections and tips help inspire you to take action. The principles are easy. The work is hard, but worth it. Be patient. Impact is achievable with persistence.

Lastly, if you like this blog, be sure to tell your colleagues about Implement to Impact. We’ve got a lot of useful content on the way.


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