How to get your big initiatives done

A source of frustration not only for me but many of my colleagues is how important and large initiatives often run out of steam before getting finished. This failure is not due to re-evaluating the importance of the initiative but a loss of momentum or focus. Given that the value has not changed, these projects failing represents a huge potential loss. MOVE by Patty Azzarello provides a great framework for getting these projects done.

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Over the years, I have championed or been part of multiple projects that had great potential, either new endeavors or initiatives to increase efficiency, but after a great start they get bogged down in the long middle phase. It’s not just in business where we run into this phenomenon. In MOVE , Azzarello uses the example of someone deciding to jog daily. First few days you get out and have a great run. Then your day of rest becomes two days of rest, then a week, eventually you are no longer jogging. Dieters face the same challenge. First week you stick to the new diet religiously and lose ten pounds, then you decide to cheat one night and have a piece of cake. Within a few weeks you are back to your old habits, and weight. To combat this phenomenon, Azzarello developed the MOVE model, which stands for Middle, Organizational, Valor and Everyone.

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Middle

The first element of the MOVE model is focusing on the Middle phase. This is the critical period as it is easy to get momentum at the beginning and also when the finish line is in sight it provides sufficient incentive to complete the initiative. It is the long, often hard and boring, phase in the middle where projects regularly stall and die.

To move through this middle phase, you need to allocate resources and measure outcomes. She points out you need to move from a vague timetable to one with small, clear and achievable targets throughout the process. In the dieting example, rather than just looking to lose 50 pounds, you set targets of losing 5, 10, 10, 10, 5, 5 and a final 5 pounds. Using the MOVE model with clear targets throughout the path will greatly improve the likelihood of getting the initiative done.

Organization

The second key of the MOVE model is Organization, building and aligning the organizational structure to succeed. You need to determine you have all the right people and resources. At the inception of the initiative, create a list of the resources and roles needed to succeed (do not tie it to your current team). Do not leave any role undefined and put in details on what every role entails (ability and experience). Also speak with colleagues and flesh out the requirements based on their input.

Once you understand what you need to succeed, then see what current team members can fill these roles. If there are gaps or unnatural fits, create a plan to overcome those issues. If you cannot get the resources to fill the gaps, build a plan on how you will overcome these holes. They will not go away simply by ignoring them.

The final phase of the O element is motivating the organization. You need to engage the team and ensure there is a common, and meaningful, purpose. Form bonds with everyone on the team and help them see the bigger picture of what you are trying to achieve.

Valor

The third part of the MOVE model is Valor. Every project runs into obstacles. There will be hard days as well as easy ones. To keep these hard days from sidetracking or stopping the project, you need to create a sense of valor. Being valorous is a matter of drawing on inner and outer resources. You need to ensure that your team members, as well as yourself, will not be paralyzed by fear when these challenges occur but will push forward despite these uncomfortable feelings. Rather than doing it all internally, connect with friends and mentors who can advise you on your initiative, preferably through past experience.

Your initiative may involve new processes and to help you fight through challenges when implementing them you should build in checkpoints and guidelines. By breaking up the initiative, it will be easier to fight through challenges as there will be a clear completion node.

Valor is much easier if you have a policy of ruthless prioritization. Rather than focusing or getting bogged down on tiny, unimportant details you work on the tough decisions that will make a major difference. Then, rather than having to fight through tens or hundreds of challenges, you are only fighting the ones that matter. To help ruthlessly prioritize, make a list of the three things crucial to the initiative’s success, consider these necessary and non-negotiable.

Everyone

The final part of the MOVE model is Everyone, getting everyone involved. No matter how great your valor is, you will not succeed in getting through the middle phase without the involvement of everyone. Rather than telling your team what the initiative is and how to get there, talk with them about how it will work. Not only will you get valuable feedback but they will start talking to each other about it, which will provide them with more ownership.

To help get everyone involved, create spaces where strategic conversations tied to the initiative can take place. Let them discuss the initiative and priorities. Also, get them involved in documenting the successes along the way. As they hit the milestones, have them talk about it and acknowledge the success. It is also important acknowledge the problems and how you will get through them to keep the project on tracks.

For everyone truly to be involved, there needs to be trust among your team. The best way to build trust is to talk to members of your team, more precisely to listen to them. Ask them what they think of the initiative and how it is going. Act on concerns that they show. Asking these questions will help forge deep bonds with your team.

MOVEing forward

The MOVE model is more than a just four elements of a process; it is a way to get big initiatives and changes done. The key to using it to make it through the challenging middle phase of an initiative is how the MOVE model starts with a clear and concrete strategy, builds an organization structure with capacity, highlights valor to make tough decisions and prioritize change and then engages everyone.

Key takeaways

  1. Many important initiatives, from new products to operational efficiency, bog down and die in the middle phase. They initially have momentum but stall once the initial burst dies down.
  2. To MOVE projects through this middle phase, the Middle element needs a clear and concrete strategy and you need an Organizational structure with capacity to complete the initiative.
  3. The final keys to getting through the middle phase are Valor, making tough decisions and prioritizing the initiative, and getting Everyone involved.