Stuck in a Rut


A wise man once said, “A rut is just a grave with the ends kicked out.”

How to tell your organization is stuck in a rut?

  1. You’re excited about an idea and everyone you talk to tells you all the reasons it won’t work.
  2. In a Management meeting,  results are presented which are tracking well below target and no one in the room questions it, shows any surprise or any particular desire to change it.
  3. When asked about sub-par results, people defend and rationalize those results instead of discussing what options they have to improve them.
  4. Staff check with their manager for every little decision because they have no idea what the company objectives or values are.
  5. An emergency arises and instead of asking how they can help, people’s first concern seems to be to establish that it wasn’t their fault.

When in a rut, mediocrity inevitably follows.  Nothing great occurs in organizations where an acceptance of mediocrity is the norm.  The way out of the rut is never quick, and sometimes very difficult, but here are some guidelines to help you on your way.

  1. Come up with some simple, clear, attainable goals.  Document the heck out of them and let everyone in your company know what you’re trying to accomplish and why.  Post results for ALL to see.
  2. Update your progress regularly and give those who will be affected by your success or failure the opportunity to inspect your results – include managers, direct reports and front-line workers. Welcome their questions, and when they ask about your results be prepared to tell them what you’re doing next. This shows you know your results and have a plan to improve them. 
  3. When someone says there’s a problem, come up with countermeasures that can be executed right away. If the ultimate solution can’t be implemented immediately, ensure the first countermeasure is. This urgency to act on even the simplest of issues, creates a culture of action, which is critical.
  4.  Be transparent. If something didn’t work, tell people and come up with another plan. This is all about credibility.  If people know you’re trying, for the right reasons, they’ll stay on board.  If they think you’re going through the motions, and making excuses for poor results, they’ll quickly lose interest in helping you. Without the team’s help, the rut will just get deeper.

It’s very easy to slide into a rut and very hard to get back out.  Assess where you’re at.  Decide where you want to be. Make a plan to get there. Act. Repeat.

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