I have fallen in love with three simple letters: WWW. No, not the World Wide Web…, I’m referring to a simple business accountability practice of tracking Who, What, When. This easy process begins to take root and change a team’s actions and thinking in as little as 2 weeks. As a leader, my heart goes pitter-patter and I do an internal happy dance when I begin to hear my staff refer to their accountability tasks in a comment like, “I’ll take a WWW to get that done.” Or in the hallway I’ll overhear a team member say, “Our weekly meeting is coming up in a few days, I had better look at the WWW list and make sure mine are done. I don’t want to be the only one who hasn’t finished them.” Music to a leader’s ears!
Here are the steps:
- Introduce your team to the importance of accountability, both on an individual level and a group level. Discuss why it is important to document the action items that come out of meetings, and the need to implement a process to track responsibilities for the team.
- Start an excel spreadsheet with 3 columns, Who, What, When.
- During your weekly meeting when a follow up action is required from a member of the team, ask them to state what they are committing to do. Write what they say verbatim in the What column. Write their name in the Who column, and ask them what anticipated completion date they want put into the When column. This is the foundation of Who, What, When.
- It’s important to capture the What word for word. This sets up a climate of accountability, no more “That’s not what I agreed to or “I thought I was supposed to do…”. And employees become exact in their communication and clear with what is realistically achievable. For example, if a team member offers to re-do the training manual for new hire orientation in a week, it might be more realistic to revise chapters 1 and 2 of the training manual and bring back those for feedback at our next meeting. You get the idea.
- The beauty of these steps start at the second weekly meeting. If any WWW is due by that meeting date, the person responsible states to the team whether or not they were able to accomplish the task. If they weren’t, the “why not” gets discussed. This detail opens up a world of information for the leader. The real behind the scenes information that the staff doesn’t usually share. For example, are there bottle necks in company workflow, departments, or people? Is there time leadership issues or conflicts prioritizing? This is great info for any leader and helps focus objectives for productivity and goals.
- Dates on the When can be updated, but keep all the dates listed. A tip is to insert a comment box into that excel cell to note any adjustments. Over time, if you see a pattern of changes associated with a specific team member, you’ll also have great data for a coaching session that starts with something like, “I’ve noticed for the past several weeks you have had seven WWW’s that needed two or more date changes. I’m curious to learn more about why this is occurring. What are your thoughts?”
- After a WWW is completed, move it to a new location excel tab, file, or folder titled completed It’s a nice way to reflect back on the tasks that were accomplished and progress made. Use it to celebrate your team’s wins. Also the details may be needed for company reports.
Using this tool my staff became accountable publicly and privately to their commitments. Time Leadership improved when a WWW completion took precedence over other distractions in the workplace. Weekly progress was made on initiatives, and meetings took on a new level of group and individual accountability for performance expectations, standards, and team norms. That’s why as a leader, I love hearing the letters WWW. See how the WWW can change the dynamics of your team accountability!