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Most strategic questions and larger action points, starts at a meeting high up in the organization. The task to provide the result for the topic is often delegated to subject matter experts further down in the organization. Successful results all depend on a clear context for the task at hand.
Strategic questions and larger tasks are vaguely defined from the beginning. But keeping them vague throughout the process is a proven recipe for failure. High senior visibility also expose you to the large negative consequences for inferior results. Your best insurance is to secure the tasks is as well structured as possible from start. A good structure for your task, is to firm up the following 4 points during the first 48 hours will improve your odds:
#1 ORIGIN AND DESTINATION
Clarify which forum the action point originate from, and where it will be presented. Probe for when the final deliverable as well as any interim reports. Understand the expectations on how the action will be reported (written, oral or both forms). How deep the investigation should go in the final reporting. The final part is about what the presentation should support (Decisions, Follow-up, Education etc.)
#2 SPONSOR/S, ANCHOR POINTS & CONTRIBUTORS
Most large questions are so complex in nature so that they involve multiple management tiers. as well as a team of subject matter experts in the development. Clarify who the sponsor for the task is, and the one you will support in making the result successful. Identify the key anchoring points that you need to anchor any proposals with on the way up to the sponsor / reporting forum. Select the team required to deliver the best result possible. A small and diverse team is your best pick. A vital aspect to consider is to involve contributors reporting to the main stakeholders. Interim results need to flow through multiple routes upwards as you approach the reporting day. A vital early priority is to secure the external resources required. Not all resources will come from direct reports to sponsor/s and key anchoring points.
#3 CONTEXT IS KING
The key success factor is to define a clear business context for the topic at hand. Five to six well formulated insights about the context is a great starting point for the development team.
#4 CLEAR SCOPE OR NO HOPE
The scope of the study is best clarified by which questions the study should provide answers to. Many team start with a generic analysis framework. It is easy to waste a lot of time on any kind of market observations instead of focus on the defining questions. These questions are clear to your most insightful people, and make sure you figure out what they know about the problem. The second time thief is the lack of boundary conditions, both regards to what is inside and what is outside the scope of the study. By being explicit on both what is in and what is out you have a well-defined frame to execute in.
Good questions to work with is this area are
- What is the standard format for reporting on complex action points? – Most organizations have them reported in a common format.
- What input will be of most value to me to secure the output? – Expect changes in the frame during the journey but the initial draft will give you a good feeling of how complex the task is.
- Which key contributors do I need to be part of the project team to secure buy in for all key stake holders? – The single biggest factor in securing the anchoring goes smooth at the end.
- How do I secure the expectations on output fit the framing of the topic? – Expect this to be one of the larger issues to deal with.
Here a few additional suggestions on good reading in the area:
- Going from good to great with complex tasks [BLOG] – by Ozgun Atasoy, Scientific American
- 5 hacks for prioritizing complex tasks [BLOG] – by Life Hack
- Social learning for complex tasks: performance support is simple [BLOG] – by Julian Stodd
I hope you have been given some inspiration to secure your next major action items can be delivered with high quality.