Concurrent Vs Sequential Progress
During a recent Office Hours for my Ignite Entrepreneur Mastermind, we discussed concurrent progress versus sequential progress.
I force my clients to handle more progress than they’ve successfully managed before. Especially if they say they “know what needs to be done and just need to execute for a while.” <– I’m looking at you Joe and Mike.
When people say they know what to do and just need to execute, they are thinking sequentially.
For an individual working on multiple projects, sequential activity is best. If an employee has projects A, B, and C to complete, the outcomes will be better if the employee completes one project before moving to the next one.
There is a lot of time lost in task switching.
If the employee works on A, then C and a little of B today and then repeats until all the projects are done, say, 3 weeks later, then RESULTS from all three projects won’t start coming in until after 3 weeks.
Obvious, right? But that’s how most people work.
However, if the employee completes project A this week, results from project A can start coming in after only a week of work. Then complete B the next week and C the week after. As soon as each is completed, they can be evaluated for results.
For a leader — you, the CEO of your company, aren’t just handling projects. You have to oversee the progress of the entire company.
You have to learn to handle the simultaneous management of the company’s resources, which includes the team and their projects.
If you function sequentially, your growth is stymied.
If you lead sequentially, your growth comes as each project comes to completion and then move to the next and then to the next. Your company’s growth looks kind of like this: 1+1=2, 2+1 =3, and so on.
The reason we have teams is to allow us to break free of sequential progress.
If you have a team of 10 then 10 parts of your business can and must be making progress simultaneously. Your business would look like this: 10+10=20, 20+10=30, and so on. As you add to your team due to this growth, your company quickly goes from 10+10 to 30+40 to 40+50.
That may sound obvious, but it isn’t what happens for the founder. The founder is still typically stuck working in the business instead of working on it. (Read: Work On, Not In)
Here’s an example:
The company needs more leads.
Sequential would be launching a direct email outreach campaign. Then after that is complete, launching a PPC campaign. When the PPC campaign is done, then launching an email campaign to your house list.
Concurrent activity would see all three of these happening at once.
What if your marketing team isn’t big enough yet to do multiple campaigns simultaneously? Then…
You could have a new product in development while the marketing team is doing its thing. Maybe the product team could be rolling out more than one new product. If the product team is too small, then they would roll out new products sequentially.
Then you as the leader would be looking to see what other areas of your business could be progressing while the marketing team and product team are doing their work.
Where Are Your Constraints?
Look to see what you’re constraining in your company (being the bottleneck) because of being focused on sequential progress and not concurrent progress.
When you’re the front line manager, your job is to help your direct reports eliminate constraints in their work flow. You are also responsible for finding and mitigating the bottlenecks you create.
After you, the founder, move up to managing managers, your responsibilities are similar. You need to help your managers eliminate their own constraints so they can help their direct reports do the same.
Constraint: a point within a process that constricts the resultant output (i.e. if the app requires 5 features, but 3 can’t be built until 1 other feature is completed, then that feature is a constraint on the entire app.).
Here’s the scary part for many founders:
You’re the only one in your business tasked with removing your own constraints.
I recommend joining a mastermind for founders or getting 1-on-1 executive coaching. Even though I’m biased as an executive coach, they really are great ways to get an objective view of your own constraints. You don’t have to hire me or join my mastermind, but you should find a group or a business coach that you resonate with.
Until then, use my Leadership Task Filter to identify how you are causing constraints on your business.
The Leadership Task Filter will highlight where you are working sequentially instead of concurrently.