The primary focus of lean organizations/teams is to “eliminate waste”. In an increasingly complex work environment where execution is distributed between teams and geographies, one of the biggest wastes I have seen is “following-up on things”.
A typical manager’s task list will feature about 30% (or even more) tasks which are simply following up (read ‘pushing”) with others on status. I think this is a huge waste for a few reasons.
The need to constantly follow-up only means that people in the team are not clear of their priorities (or priorities are not clearly communicated). It also means they are not disciplined and accountable.
Time spent on following up is never estimated when you delegate the work. It is not accounted for, and hence results in further delays. The act of following up negatively impacts both parties – the one who is following up and the one being followed up.
When things only happen after follow-up, it gradually results in a culture where nothing is completed unless someone chases it.
So, how do you build a culture of “no follow-up” in your team? Here are a few things that I have seen working:
Set expectation: When you delegate a task, define the expectations clearly and establish a “no follow-up rule”.
Establish rituals: For time critical assignments/projects, set up a checkpoint ritual periodically, where you schedule a fixed time for seeking status update on different tasks. Program your team to feed you with progress details at a regular intervals.
Be disciplined: Set the right example by delivering your own work without the need to follow up. Do not follow up unless absolutely required. Be persistent in your approach.
Once-in-a-while is fine, but otherwise, a culture of constant follow-ups is a huge waste. When you continuously strive to build a culture of no follow-ups, you will have more accountability and empowerment in your team. Time saved for both managers and team members is a bonus!
Join in the conversation: What methods do you employ to ensure that you and your team do not require any follow-up to get things done?