The Follow-up Game

The Follow-up Game

Let me set the stage...

We’re in a team meeting and you and I agree that we’ll accomplish a particular task by the end of next week...

Great! We’re pumped about it. And the meeting ends.

Then I don’t hear from you...

Days go by. And I still don’t hear from you...

Then I have to follow-up to see if you’re still going to do what you said you’ll do in the timeframe that you said you would.

99% of the time, the timeframe has magically and suddenly changed due to unforeseen forces and a failure to anticipate changes.

This wouldn’t be so bad, except when it seeps into an entire team culture.

Let’s extrapolate this a bit. I follow-up with you. But you’re following up with your 3 team members. And they’re all following-up with your vendors, clients, and partners, as well as each other.

If you have a company of 12 people, there very well could be hundreds of tasks that we’re all following up on.

And then, you hit this critical tipping point where tasks just start to fall by the wayside. And I forget to follow-up with you and you forget what we talked about because you’re spending over half of your work day moving the game piece one step closer to Candy Land in the Follow-up World.

Stop the madness!

We cannot allow the Follow-up Game to dictate the culture of getting things done, which leads to the trajectory of our company’s growth.

What’s the solution?

Since this is a cultural issue as much as it is a team issue, some of it must be daily discussed and dealt with in regular stand-up meetings.

Here are a few ways that we are working to combat this abyss of follow-up:

  • Two weekly stand up meetings within our companies to address deadlines, goals, and tasks to hit those timelines. 
  • A strategic workflow system—we like Asana.com and Harvest Time Tracker
  • Direct and clear communication about deadlines. If you don’t hit your deadline, everyone is on you making sure you never miss it again. Spin this positively, as in “Hey we’ll help you hit your deadline, just let us know you need help."
  • We don’t allow our team members to forget their target deadlines. It’s written. It’s clear. It’s open and honest.
  • Be realistic in roadmapping and planning. If you think you’ll get the new books printed by next week, why do you think that? Work backward from the timeframe and tell the team exactly how you came to that timeframe? This helps to eliminate overlooked areas that pop up last minute too.
  • The DRP (read more about that here) is duly responsible to give us feedback (so we don’t have to follow-up). We set this in the initial timeframe too (is it hourly, daily, weekly?). Then if they don’t hit their feedback deadline, it’s all hands on deck because something is not right.

We battle against the Follow-up Game daily. It can destroy the get-it-done culture within a team. But if you deal with it regularly, your team can thrive together with high levels of communication, smack deadlines on schedule, and absolutely annihilate the competition.

(photo via jonas forth)