In my last post I shared my Success 1 2 3 formula for when you’re faced with a thorny challenge or feel overwhelmed by how to get started on something big.
Step 1: get Leverage. Find the common element, root cause or recurring theme that keeps getting in your way. Then move everything else to the back burner and put all of your focus on getting movement in that area.
Step 2: gain Momentum. Once the ball starts rolling, make smart decisions to create additional momentum.
Step 3: reap Compounding. Build on the movement and benefits you’ve already created.
The example I used last time addressed increasing your energy. Here’s a work-related example from my own career.
A few years ago I ran large, cross-functional programs at a large bank. I got asked to manage a three year program to reduce deposit fraud losses. The bank was paying the price for years of underinvestment. Losses were nine times industry average and growing.
I started my new assignment, and the manager of the Risk Analytics group handed me a list of 20 projects that formed the basis for the approved business case. While I waited for my team to wrap up the previous program and join me, I started attending meetings and talking to people to get familiar with fraud (which I didn’t know anything about), the organization, and the ideas on the project list. Over the next three weeks I kept hearing the same things:
Losses are up this week, but we don’t know why.
Losses are down this week – hurrah! But we don’t know why.
We think this is what’s happening, but we’re not sure.
Our gut is telling us this…
Over and over I heard the same theme. We didn’t have the information we needed to make good decisions. The little data we had access to was not timely, and it took a lot of manpower to get these dribs and drabs of bits and bytes into a format the analysts could work with. I wasn’t even confident the projects on my To Do list were the right projects. And in what order should we execute them?
It was clear to me that we had to resolve the data issue first, so I shelved the project list and kicked off a project to develop an analytics data environment. This was a risky approach, and I had a few arrows sticking out of my backside during the nine months it took to build it. Luckily our technology partners were up for a fun and interesting challenge, the analytics group was on board to make sure the data was architected in a way they could use, and we kicked off a ‘quick hits’ campaign to identify and address small effort/big bang changes which would deliver immediate savings.
After nine months we had an analytics data environment fed throughout the day with transaction information from around the bank. Right away it was a game changer. After a few months we had new insights into what was going on, had changed the dialog with upper management and our branch network, created new tools and models, and started to create momentum towards our goals.
We did implement some of the items on that 20 project list, but since we had implemented a game-changer, some projects became irrelevant or not worth the investment. After three years our losses were coming down and we were within pennies of the industry average.
Are you faced with a big challenge, or a really long To Do list? I hope you can find a way to use Success 1 2 3 to help.
This topic was inspired by a client who had been in a new job for two months and had a To Do list containing 86 projects. Some projects were big, some were small, but most had someone screaming for it. Where to start? My advice to her and to you is to find the action you can take to address the recurring theme, or the action that will eliminate the need to do multiple other items on the list. Shelve everything else and focus on that leverage point to get the ball rolling.