Breaking It Down

Breaking It Down

Posted by in Communication, Leadership, The Leadership Coach™

I have a love/hate relationship with IKEA. On the one hand they sell exceptionally cost-effective furnishings that can often look good for the price. On the other hand I so often find that the frustration of dealing with their products overshadows the money I save.

Take the shelving system I bought last weekend for example: they didn’t include the screws needed for attaching the shelves. Worse though, when I opened the “instructions” what I actually found was simply a picture of the parts and then a picture of the finished product. No steps. What could have been a simple assembly process turned into trial and error, hours of aggravation, and the inevitable discovery at the end that I had some pieces left over whose purpose remains unknown.

• As a leader, is your vision an “IKEA instructions experience” for your team?
• Do people around you seem to spend a lot of time trying to clarify what you see or what they’re supposed to achieve next?
• Do you convey a big picture outline sketch of the finished product you see, then direct people back to a list of resources and leave them to “figure it out”?
• Do projects take much longer than you think they should?

Maybe this is an opportunity to ask whether or not you’re taking the time to break it down for your team.

Like it or not, most team members need both the vision and the next steps. This is not about micro-managing. And it’s not an anti-vision message either. In fact, if you can’t show people a vision of what you’re trying to build then all the steps in the world may be nothing more than “busy work”… or as the old adage goes, “climbing the ladder, only to find it’s leaning against the wrong wall”.

But let’s face it – it’s faster and more fun to come up with ideas than it is to break those ideas down into a plan that people can actually execute. I’ve consulted with organisations that clearly had “vision fatigue” – the cumulative effect of endless ideas and initiatives that rarely get executed. Whether it’s you, or someone else whose gift is turning ideas into plans, don’t underestimate the price we pay for not translating all that possibility into steps our team can actually take.

So if there’s an aspect of your vision that seems to have stalled why not take some time this week with a few of your top producers to break it down. Create a plan. Lay out a sequence of steps. Clarify the starting point. Set some milestones. Then see if pictures and plans produce better results than pictures alone.

I’d love to hear your comments and feel free to use the links below to share this article with others

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5 Responses to “Breaking It Down”

  1. Dean Evans

    05. Nov, 2010

    Hi Paul,

    I recall the story you told in the “Fast Track” series about your handyman skills so perhaps the shelves just brought up old demons??

    The other take on this might be that, if like IKEA, the only tool you offer staff to solve/fix/build something is an allen key then you take away all those steps before the final product that help to forge a sense of togetherness and teamwork.

    IKEA is still good for a cheap breakfast!

  2. Stuart Chadban

    05. Nov, 2010

    G’day Paul
    Its good to know that I’m not the only one who has experienced the IKEA meltdown.
    As the director of my firm, you’ve reminded me again today to ‘break it down’ to our team.
    A great reminder!

  3. Yvonne Xavier

    06. Nov, 2010

    Hi Paul,
    Thanks for the article. It is so easy to see the goal or end product and forget the need to break it down into the steps required to get there, Thanks for the reminder

    It’s amazing how are experiences become a great teaching tool.
    God Bless


  4. Paul Andrew

    09. Nov, 2010

    Great comments everyone. And Stuart I’m glad it helped- sometimes that’s an opportunity to ask the “end users” what it was like to use our “instructions” and what they wish was include


  1. Tweets that mention Breaking It Down | Paul Andrew | Keynote Speaker, Leadership Trainer, New York City | The Leadership Coach™ -- - November 4, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Paul Andrew, Neil Brown. Neil Brown said: RT @paulwandrew: Brand new post "Breaking It Down" – what a BAD experience with IKEA reminded me about leadership! […]