It’s time for another MEGA-learning from the sheer gold vault of lessons, modules and learnings of my former supervisor…
Have you ever had SO MUCH going on at work or at home that you seem to riffle through one issue to the next, but never really gaining resolution?
Do you feel like someone on your team (family or work) is just an idea, program, initiative MACHINE, but you’re left wondering: ‘who was supposed to keep track of those?!” and “where are we at on that deal anyway?!”
Here’s a simple one: did you ever wonder why your training or resourcing event didn’t have the impact or traction that you desired?
I believe the answer lies within 3 simple words:
Close. The. Loop.
Well simply said, not always simply done…
I would define closing the loop like this:
Def. intentionally revisiting anything you start, until you’ve brought it to a finish.
This could be any idea, request, action item, program or initiative. Check in and continue to do so until you have reached agreed-upon resolution or success.
The most simple illustration is this:
Last year I proposed a team goal of walking my people through a hospitality training.
It was your basic format where I had each team member read some case study material in advance then I would go around 1:1 with each person and walk them through an agenda of bullet point principles.
You see I actually thought my job was done at that point… you know, like “well I did the training, had 100% attendance and got the content out there so everyone must be ‘trained’ now, right?”
Here was the simple brilliance of what my supervisor encouraged me to do next…
He said what you should do now is go around 2-3 weeks later and first watch each one of those team members in action and see if they are actually implementing the new theories and techniques.
Watch them and ask them: how are you applying the material that we covered almost a month ago now.
That was closing the loop: do the training, check back in on the training. (Otherwise what was the point of the training?)
And that is the first principle of what closing the loop is all about
#1 Closing the loop essentially asks the question: “so what?”
You see, it’s not good enough to simply be a great idea man. The logic is totally intuitive: we all know that great visionaries and idea people would be nowhere without the doers and systems thinkers to enact these great ideas.
So in essence, the art and discipline of asking “so what?” “what’s next” is your accountability structure for testing outcomes and effectiveness. That brings us to point #2…
#2 Closing the loop means having someone consistent and focused enough to constantly ask that question.
If you aren’t that person, if you can’t perform this, what I’ll call “adapted discipline,” early or often enough then maybe this is your next hire, maybe this is your next volunteer recruit.
Because I’m convinced that team members who operate this way are absolutely the top performers in every organizational level… any organization, at least, that cares about actually working their mission and vision through their strategy into a reality.
And I introduce the idea of adapted style because probably not just anybody can do this well forever.
It has to be within someone’s “natural” style of leadership. Hence the sense of urgency you may need if you don’t already have this strength available on your team.
#3 Closing the loop is fundamentally about execution and implementation
If you feel forever stuck in the ideation stage, the brainstorm session, the dream cycle it’s not long before you realize how badly you need this way of thinking to positively infect your culture and DNA.
Ideas, programs and strategies never moved to implementation (which requires constant reassessment) are just that: sweet dreams. But closing the loop is not merely about doing, it has a built-in review gene…
#4 Closing the loop serves as a constant barometer for success, efficacy and effectiveness
Everyone wants to make progress, but few people know how to measure it.
Fewer still have the time or money to hire outside consultants to conduct, compile and analyze the data that will explain progress.
So here is your simple and free skill: the quickest measure for success is to build constant loop-closing opportunities and questions into the daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly fabric of your organization.
Back to my illustration above: how did the training go? I don’t know, let’s go around and find out. I didn’t have to compile massive amount of numbers or data, I simply had to go ask and watch. Ask the team members what they were using and watch them in action.
#5 Closing the loop people are note-takers and note-takers are history-makers
That’s what we used to say to our teenagers at church: “note-takers are history-makers.”
The truth is: even the simple practice of writing or typing notes for something that is communicated to you is a quick and small way of closing the loop. How?
Because it’s is proven that when you are learning through listening (auditory style) and you connect that to moving your body or hands (kinesthetic style) to connect what’s going in your ears, you have a better shot at retention, growth and learning!
Well the same is true in your organizational leadership: you must have someone who is tracking the status from ideation>implementation and implementation>review.
Let me put it more plainly: no one can remember everything, so write it down, write it down and later on revisit by closing the loop.
I am a part of a small resource-lean organization that is entering a season of fairly massive rediscovery.
If we hope to see any traction in our renewed structures, we have no choice but to excel at closing the loop.
Here’s the reality: for you this tool may not be about winning, it might, literally, be about surviving.
I use the word focus in the title for a reason; if you don’t begin the disciplined process of staying focused by closing the loop, your job and your organization may not be around tomorrow.
Maybe you feel this same way; I suggest starting small: start taking notes to track progress and start asking the question: “so what?” You may not look or feel smart doing that now but over time it will reap a harvest. (Galatians 6:9)