“Start, Stop, Keep” Is Always A Good Exercise

With the first month of 2014 now in the books, there is still time to polish up your plans for the year by completing a proven exercise and revisiting it as the year progresses. You can apply the exercise to yourself personally and to your organization, by units and as a whole. You make a list of tasks under three headings: Start: what new things are you going to start doing to move towards the goals you have set; Stop: what current and past things are you going to stop doing because they do not move you towards your goals; and, Keep: what things are you going to keep doing because they work with the new things to reach those goals.

The exercise is not as easy as it looks. Rarely do we love and embrace change. New things to be done can be daunting and disruptive. Letting go of what we have always done and how we have done it is often unpleasant. Perhaps the part that appears the easiest is to keep doing certain tasks. But, do they need to be done in the same way? Can they be done in the same way if they need to be coordinated with new ones? The other hard part is to follow the principles of brainstorming and to list as many things as possible under each heading in as much detail as possible without eliminating tasks until you have the whole body of them assembled.

And, avoid the “entrepreneur’s curse” of believing you are 100% responsible for everything. Your responsibility as the leader is to commission and even facilitate this process and then make then make the tough final decisions on implementation. Rely on the people in the organization you have built to develop the details and assume the appropriate level of responsibility for implementation of their tasks.