Encouraging Follow-Through: How to Get your Team to Stop Procrasti-planning and Just Do It.
Your team’s goals and plans are only as strong as the ability to follow-through on them.
The SWOT analysis is a ubiquitous tool that your team uses to make plans. Unfortunately, getting them to follow-through on those plans is harder than making the plan itself.
Sure, we understand why it’s useful. Sitting down to think about and list your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is a great exercise. It gets you to slow down, throw a wrench in your gears, and work your way out of it. It helps you to think about your options in a situation where something goes wrong (which, it always does).
Execution is a whole other thing. For something so common, it’s easy for a team to take your SWOT analysis and continue to say, “We didn’t know the steps to take,” or “We couldn’t agree on how to move forward.” It’s easy to plan, it’s hard to execute. A million little things can go wrong that keep your people from moving forward. Plans are only as good as your ability to implement them. If the SWOT analysis simply tells you what your highs and lows are, that’s nice… but it doesn’t give you anything to do with your findings.
Sure, understanding where your weaknesses and threats are is incredibly important. But only as a means to help you head them off. That begs the question: what gets in the way?
A few things.
Buy-in: If you’re working with a team and they’re not willing to take the exercise seriously or make changes in their workflow, you won’t get anywhere. The more players on the board, the harder to reach the end of the game.
If you’re working remotely or with someone who’s a contract or part-time, there are additional roadblocks for getting them to follow-through with a change. They’ll have systems of their own. If they’re up for implementing yours, great, but legally, you can’t require it. Freelance and contract workers have the freedom to work the way they need to in order to complete their tasks. That’s part of what makes them freelance and not an actual “employee,” so if you can get on the same page, great. But if you can’t, that’s part of the weakness you should be considering.
Implementation: This is by far the most important aspect of planning. As mentioned earlier, your plans are only as good as your ability to implement them. If the pain of same is easier than the pain of change, your team could be dealing with a few challenges that are keeping them from moving forward. From personal issues and team drama to a misalignment of goals, there are a lot of things you could be dealing with. Maybe your team is just burned out and making big changes in their day-to-day isn’t something they feel they can add to their plate.
If you feel yourself saying, “My business isn’t achieving the goals we’re setting out,” it means the goal-setting process is getting done, but the follow-through isn’t there.
It’s easy to look at the goals or plans you’ve made and find a mistake or talk yourself out of doing something. The little judgment voice comes into your head, saying, “I’m just playing devil’s advocate here, but what if none of this works and it’s stupid?” Your team has the same experience, as well as a mountain of work they’re dealing with. Asking them to get everything done in a new way is asking them to change their ingrained habits. They’ve developed these habits as a way to simplify their work and if they think your new system or goal is going to take longer, it’s easier for them to walk it back and not follow-through.
As well, once overarching plans are made, you may be asking your team to take liberties and make mistakes that they may not be comfortable doing. If they don’t feel like they have the agency to screw up while taking on new work, or if they are focusing on fixed-mindset goals, they may think their work is “good enough,” and just not want to follow-through.
After listing your SWOTs, your team probably has an accurate idea of the goals you want accomplish, but there are multiple ways to get there and they may not feel like they have the agency to decide which path to take. Knowing the outcome you want but being unsure of the journey can stop your team from making progress.
Confidence comes from practice. Practice comes from having the courage to make mistakes, and then making those mistakes over and over, but a little less messy each time. Eventually, you’re like “Oh, ya there are no more mistakes because I know how to navigate this” and it becomes a habit. Then you start with new goals and mix things up all over again.
So how do you get the confidence to actually try something new? This is where the next analysis comes in. This is the one that’s a little lesser-known, but way more helpful.
When I was working in corporate, we had a few company-wide strategy sessions. Each department was asked to submit a SWOT analysis. I asked our marketing department team to submit both SWOT and TOWS. I was very surprised to see we were the only ones who knew what that was.
A TOWS analysis is a little like taking a SWOT and introducing it to Mendel’s Pea Experiment.
Remember this gem from grade school science class?
So you take different breeds of pea and mate them in a specific way to get the results you want, and then apply the scientific method to see what happens, right? That’s basically what you do with a TOWS analysis. You take your findings from the SWOT and then apply them in a specific way to get something close to the result you’re looking for. Apply the scientific method to test your hypothesis, and then repeat until you’ve got the results you want or you realize that you need to change your plan.
So in TOWS, you create a table and fill it out with the information you’ve gathered to make it actionable:
A TOWS table we made. Yes, you can take it.
The whole point here is that you’ve created the start of a plan by listing your goals, and the elements of your SWOT analysis. Creating the steps to achieve those goals helps your team to know exactly what they need to do, which is something you can map out by creating a TOWS. It doesn’t just list things, it creates a roadmap. The issue of follow-through comes down to feeling gutsy and prepared enough to take on a new challenge. You have to be willing to make mistakes. Right now, the world is FULL of mistakes and do-overs and “who knows what’s gonna happen tomorrow?” so you might as well get out there and try that thing you’ve been planning forever but never got off the ground.
Don’t just list your SWOT. Make it actionable.
Hi there, I'm Cat Bradley
Founder of SewEthico, systems enthusiast, marketing expert, and nonprofit career alum. I help women founders build their first marketing departments and structure their company around their clients, so they can grow, prove traction, and gain funding for their mission-driven businesses. Get my support to grow your business.