Action-Forcing Events

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How do you get people to take action?  If your results depend on other people, how do you set the stage for action and help build momentum?  In The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels, Michael Watkins write about how to use action-forcing events to help move people into action.

Key Take Aways
Here’s my key take aways:

  • Identify who does what when.  There’s a big difference between agreeing to actions and having owners that are accountable.  There’s also a big difference when you have a timeframe for the outcome.
  • Use timetables and incremental milestones.  Rather than wait for a big bang at the end, chunk the work down into increments.  This avoids large surprises downstream. 
  • Leverage review sessions.  Review sessions are a great forcing function.
  • Ask the right questions with the right people in the room.  This is one of the most effective ways to drive results or at least clarify roadblocks and issues.

Eliminate Inaction as an Option
Watkins writes:

“How can you get people to take action at all?  It is all too easy even with the best intentions, to defer decisions, delay, and avoid committing scarce resources.  When your success requires the coordinated action of many people, delay by a single individual can have a cascade effect, giving others an excuse not to proceed.  You must therefore eliminate inaction as an option.” 

Setting Up Action-Forcing Events
Watkins writes:

“One approach is to set up action-forcing events — events that induce people to make commitments or take actions.  Those who make commitments should be locked into timetables with incremental implementation milestones.  Meetings, review sessions, and deadlines can all sustain momentum:  Regular meetings to review progress, and tough questioning of those who fail to reach agreed-on goals, increase the psychological pressure to follow through.”

Don’t Push Them Toward the Opponent Side
Watkins writes:

“Be careful though: Avoid pressing for closure until you are confident the balance of forces acting on key people is tipping your way.  Otherwise, you could succeed in forcing them to take a stand, but inadvertently push them toward the ‘opponent’ side of the ledger.  Again, you need to rely on your conversations with the people involved and with your ‘intelligence network’ to get a sense of where the situation stands.”

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