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Posts Tagged ‘initiative’

Use Action Plans to Manage “Initiative Overload”

A recent article from Bain & Company talks about the common problem that occurs when organizations are bogged down with initiative overload—they “are like swimmers buffeted by cross currents coming from every direction”, and the result is often fragmentation and unremarkable results for the company and the client or prospect.

As an agency owner, producer or service team member, you’ll likely relate to the problems that arise from “initiative overload”…maybe you have to tackle a surprise request from a client, address an unforeseen risk or scramble to deliver on promises made during the sales process.

The article provides a few great tips for overcoming initiative overload such as (1) managing your time to determine what your strategic priorities are, (2) clearly defining your responsibility for each initiative, and (3) determining your involvement by establishing distinct decision processes and maintaining open communication. But in order to avoid initiative overload all together, we would recommend creating action plans.

So, when and how do you create an action plan? Action plans are the culmination of agreements gained during the sales process, and depending on the size of the agency, the prospect and producer should agree to take on 1 to 2 initiatives per quarter or year. They represent the work that needs to be accomplished by both parties in order to strengthen and protect the client’s business.

In many ways, in order to retain accounts and grow your book of business, implementation of agreed upon initiatives is not only necessary; it also provides a big opportunity to differentiate. But, successful implementation only happens when there is a strong action plan in place. In today’s challenging marketplace, an action plan ensures that timelines won’t become hazy, promises won’t be broken, and both parties will get the most out of the relationship.

Take the Initiative to Be Successful

Most of us can relate to this scenario: you walk into the office, poor a cup of coffee, boot up your computer and immediately begin responding to the list of emails in your inbox. But, according to Seth Godin, you should start out your day engaging and initiating your best work in order to keep focused and be successful. In his book, “Poke the Box”, Godin challenges his readers to make something happen every day. In a Forbes article, Dan Schawbel calls “Poke the Box” both a manifesto and a permission slip: It’s “a manifesto in that it argues that the only real way for us to succeed today is to take initiative. It’s not given, it’s something we do. We provoke, create a ruckus, experiment, fail, repeat, learn, succeed… it’s a permission slip because people are waiting for one.”

So, what can you do to be an initiator and take control of your own success?

(1) Don’t let perfection be the enemy you constantly run up against. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a process, and a plan, it simply means that you shouldn’t let the fear of imperfection prevent you from having a conversation with a prospect.

(2) Stop waiting for permission. Initiators are hard to come by, and if you choose to initiate it will differentiate you from your competitors. You should ask yourself: What idea or opportunity can I seize in the marketplace? What new market forces or pressures are my clients currently facing? Am I reading what my clients and prospects are reading? Am I asking what matters to them, and to their customers?

(3) Initiate more client-centric dialog, and create time for business opportunities or meetings.

(4) Don’t be afraid to experiment—if something didn’t work last year, find out why and what you can you do to change it.

(5) Initiate more opportunities for your clients to learn and be trained by you, and for you to learn and be trained.