“Start, Stop, Continue” –> “Stop, Improve, Start”

If you can avoid the mental shutdown that can come from Christmas music blasting from every speaker, this is a great time of year to think. It’s almost winter. Nature goes into hiding, and makes plans for the new year. I do too. When it comes to my work, I like to look back over the year, and decide: What areas would I like to focus on in the new year?

About six months ago, my client and friend Elizabeth Santana introduced me to a technique called “Start, Stop, Continue.” She’s the Managing Director of Palo Alto Players, but learned this during her time at Google. I’ve used it in my strategic planning work to great success. You can read a quick tutorial on it at Forbes.

Basically, the formula asks you to consider three questions:

1. What should we start doing? What will bring us the most benefit and be most worth our time?
2. What should we stop doing? What isn’t working, is no longer relevant, and just needs to end?
3. What should we continue doing? What’s working well that we should make sure to keep going?

It’s a great tool for reflection. But I’ve run into some challenges with it.

First, it prioritizes starting new things first. Most people don’t want more things on their plate. They want to nudge some of those things off the plate and onto the floor, and let the dog eat them.

Second, “continue” means “don’t change what’s working” to me. That’s all fine and good, but what if the performance of what’s working can be dramatically improved?

So, today I share with you my modifications to this model, which I’ve been using successfully in my work.

“Stop, Improve, Start.”

Step 1: Stop what’s not working. You need this mental space/space in your schedule/space on your task list to have room for anything new you want to launch. Let the dog eat first. (Your dog will love you for it.)

Step 2: Improve. For what is working, how can it be dramatically improved? It’s working, so it’s a safe bet, and worth doubling down on. And since you’ve stopped other things, you have the capacity to improve.

Only after these two aspects have been considered, do you look at step 3, which is starting new strategies. Things that are new are a riskier bet. But remember, at this point you have:

1) From step 1: More free time to make a “start” successful, and
2) From step 2: The safety net of what’s working now working even better.

Time for you to implement. It’s Ron’s Monday Mission™:

By the end of the year, use the above. Either apply it personally or professionally. Or both. If the former, I recommend a long walk in nature. If the latter, do it at a staff meeting. If you have questions on how best to implement this, let me know.

Have a reflective week,

Ron

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Ron Evans helps leaders from some of the world’s most impactful organizations to sleep well at night. As a trusted strategic advisor with a unique background in both technology and psychology, Ron dramatically improves the performance of individuals and organizations. Contact Ron.

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