Talk Is Easy

Ideas Are Easy; Implementation Is Hard!

There are very smart and creative people in organizations and they come up with lots of exciting ideas about initiatives that could bring enhanced products and services to their customers and revenue to their businesses. In our experience as Organization Change consultants, we are impressed by the rich well of new ideas that spring forth at many meetings.

So then why do so many organizations seem bogged down in unproductive meetings and continue to be unable to move forward? Our observation is that good ideas often go nowhere; people get excited – maybe – but there is no follow-through. Why?

On the recent HBO documentary on the life of Harry Belafonte, the extraordinary singer and world activist, is shown convening a meeting of leaders in government, the arts and religion to find new ways to address the mounting problem of youth who are falling by the wayside or ending in prison. Sitting in the familiar circle, they listened thoughtfully to stirring speeches about the need to develop new approaches to this national challenge. Ruby Dee, the accomplished, long-time actor of both stage and screen, expressed a powerful message to them — and to us all. She cried out that she’d been to meetings like this so often and “I leave without an assignment.”

We suggest that she has put her finger on the answer to the dilemma of no follow-through. Talk is easy and implementation is indeed hard! Why? Because so many meetings end without action steps – assignments – being taken to move the idea further.

And so nothing happens. Members of the organization become even more cynical about their leaders and their organizations and more disengaged – and nothing changes, or change happens painfully slowly.

So what is needed? Here are some ideas:

  • Have the right people—the ones who know about the issue and can work on it — in the room from the start.
  • Make sure the issue, problem or opportunity is stated specifically and in terms of positive outcome. E.g. what’s the next product? How do we resolve the customer problem?
  • Break down the possibilities for action into small, sequential steps with timeframes and designate a leader(s) for each.
  • Set the date for the next meeting to move the project forward. Even if you have to change it, you establish an expectation of action.
  • Plan how you will use digital resources to move the project forward and do not depend only on face-to-face meetings to make progress.

What have others found effective? Let’s have a conversation about ways to get groups into action?