One key to leadership development is a consistent, robust review cycle. If we want to get better at what we do, then we need to honestly assess it, recognise positives and negatives, and develop plans for growth. This is true individually, and organisationally.
I’ve worked with organisations that have unintentionally introduced growth caps to their mission, vision, and cultural plans because they did not learn from their prior performance. This principle is true of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual performance, in any area you may work in.
If we don’t implement a review cycle, we will plateau our personal or organisational growth. It’s a leadership principle that when plateau-causing thinking becomes the norm, stagnation and decline inevitably follow.
Creating a review cycle is easy enough because as leaders we already ask many of the essential questions! The visionary leader will always ask “what’s next?”, whereas the strategic leader will ask “how will we do it?” The action-orientated leader wants to know “when can we do it?” and the thinking leader says “how did we do?” Depending on our personality, we may gravitate to one or more of those questions naturally. But we need to ask all of them, and not just in a token way to tick a box, but in a thorough, meaningful manner.
So how do we maximise a review cycle? Consistency is important. Making a review part of the leadership culture will see the most benefits over time. Having the right people as part of the process is key, too. Anyone on the team and any key people with influence need to be present to have their say and listen to others. Finally, it’s important to give ourselves to the process emotionally, especially when areas or actions dear to our heart are the ones being reviewed! The heart of a healthy review cycle is growth. We want to see activities, projects, and events be all they can be and continually improve. So how do we create one?
Review Cycle Step 1: Plan
This is considered the start of the review cycle if you are intending to start a new initiative. But if you are working with an existing initiative, it might be later on. Either way, some good planning questions to ask include:
– What is your goal? What are you wanting to do? What does success look like?
– How will your mission and vision shape it?
– What milestones will you use? How will you measure progress?
– Who needs to be involved? Have they been part of a dialogue so they have the opportunity to contribute and buy-in, or share questions and concerns?
– Is it achievable with your available resources of people, energy and expertise? If there is a resource gap, what is your plan to manage that?
– When do you need or want to complete it? Is this reasonable and achievable given your team and resources?
Review Cycle Step 2: Do
Time to follow the plan! Some erroneous thinking can creep in here, especially from leaders who subscribe to an ‘action-first’ style of leadership. These leaders are the type who don’t really respect a plan and jettison it as soon as feels convenient. The point here is that it might be convenient for them, but might not be for their team. Plans are wonderful servants and terrible masters but do bring order, stability and protection. If you are wanting to ditch a plan, get your team buy-in before you do. Otherwise, the review part of this process could be very painful for you!
Simply put, planning without action is stagnation. Action without planning is a reaction. But planning partnered with action creates momentum.
Review Cycle Step 3: Review
After your initiative, it’s time for the review. The best practice is to do this by discussing as a team if you have one. Good questions to ask include:
– Did you achieve your goal? Why or why not?
– How was your timescale?
– What worked, and what didn’t?
– What didn’t work as well as you thought, and why?
– What worked better than you thought, and why?
– How did the team, and key individuals, perform? Who overperformed, who underperformed, and why?
– How did your resource availability and usage help or hinder your initiative?
Review Cycle Step 4: Improve
A thorough and honest review should provide a lot of useful information that can help you upgrade your initiative the next time you run it. The same information can also be leveraged for other initiatives. Good questions to ask include:
– What are you going to do differently next time?
– What will you do that you didn’t do?
– What will you not do?
– What didn’t you do that you will next time?
– What changes can be made that have the greatest impact?
Review Cycle: Summary
Armed with this data, you can move onto the planning stage and begin again. Growth and continuous improvement won’t be far away from your projects, events and activities if you implement this as part of your leadership culture. You’ll see individual and organisational development and will continue to get better at what you do, which is one of the aims of leadership. So plan, do, review and improve. Again, and again, and again!
Do you have your own review process? How does that work for you? If you don’t, why not? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!