How to execute a blueberry

For the last few weeks, I’ve been finding blueberries all over the house. On the kitchen floor. In the hallway. On the porch. If I’m lucky I find them before they are gracing the bottom of my shoes. While it might seem strange, the presence of the blueberries is no mystery.

My oldest son is a blueberry-eating fiend. He’s been known to down two pints of (expensive) organic blueberries for a  post-lunch snack. Don’t get me wrong – they’re wonderful food, healthy and full of anti-oxidants. I’m glad he’s choosing wisely, but I don’t want the fruit strewn across the floors and ground into the rugs. The intent is good, but he’s falling down on the execution.

Anyone who has spent any amount of time in organizations large and small has seen significant, well-meaning initiatives fail for lack of proper execution. From my experience, some of the reasons this happens are:

  • Failure to communicate. The initiative has not been adequately explained. As a former communications manager, I can assure you that people don’t necessarily “get it” the first time. Or the second. Or the fifth. You need to communicate the reasoning behind decisions and the desired outcome multiple times, and preferrably through multiple channels, to maximize the chance of  success.
  • Inadequate training. Just because you want something to occur doesn’t mean your employees are going to know how to do it. Make sure the people you are relying on have the skills they need to succeed.
  • Lack of buy-in. One of the most discouraging things I faced was rolling out large initiatives that were embraced by both senior management and client-facing staff, but not middle management. In every case, someone forgot to tell them it was important and it became just another thing to do. Because they were unconcerned, they didn’t help or hold their own teams accountable and the initiatives fizzled before there was ever any real impact to the client.

OK, I  admit, the first two do not really apply to my son. He knows what my expectation is – it has been communicated loud and clear. And he knows how to wash the blueberries and put them in a bowl, and pick up after himself. Which leads me to lack of buy-in. Whatever the reason, make sure that there are systems in place to reinforce the behavior you want and discourage the behavior you don’t want. I’m thinking of assigning him the chore of vacuuming for life.

Are you trying to roll out a new initiative? Send your stories to – if I use them, I’ll feature your business.

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