8 questions for follow up managers and leadership

Follow up is what good managers do; you follow up for 2 reasons:

  1. People are doing what they are supposed to be doing. The purpose of follow-up is to maintain performance and notice what is happening that you would like to continue or amplify.
  2. People are not doing what they are supposed to be doing. the purpose of follow-up is to improve performance by asking, “How can I help?”

Follow-up is meant to get to the person before the problem gets too far out of control and you find out last minute that the work will be late, below quality, or over budget.

Using this information with a team, we continued to develop some project and team leader processes to build the follow-up process.

It turns out that the lack of follow-up is pervasive, and many managers are busy.

Your busyness creates quick agreement on work but little time to follow up. The lack of follow-up creates confusion about priorities and a scramble to do the work you thought was a priority. However, you never followed up, and then you complain – “No one gets anything done here, and I do not see a sense of urgency in their work!” which is a fancy way of saying that you are not following up on a way that is working.

You, as a manager, have created an inward loop of a scramble because you have a flawed follow-up process – that is your fault.  

Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.

W. Edwards Deming

8 Questions for better follow up as a manager

  1. What are the boundaries that contain this work? Boundaries being lines that cannot be crossed OR the bigger picture things that keep this work contained.
  2. What is the goal/objective that this work will achieve?
  3. On a scale of 0 – 10. With 10 being that the work is complete (as defined above) & 0 being the opposite – Where are you as of today?
  4. What have you already completed? Evidence that you are at the number you chose.
  5. What obstacle is keeping you from moving forward?
  6. What is your next step?
  7. What do you expect to happen when you take that next step?
  8. When can we see what was learned by taking that step?

With many teams and managers, we had added these 8 follow-up questions to project documents and meeting agendas, asked each person to complete the items before our team meeting, and used these as updates and reporting.

What you follow up on is what gets done. The 8 questions will serve as a scaffold to continue to make progress on your work.