I do a lot of work with teams of people who are improving one thing or another. One of the things I see happening very often is them getting so focused on where it is they are trying to get to, that they lose sight of how far they have come. In general, the suggestion to ‘keep the end in mind’ when working on improvement is perfectly sound. However, there are times when we need to take our eye off the destination, and take stock of where we are now.

Any improvement that involves overcoming obstacles, or making changes, will always involve seeing things as challenging. The team, or individual, defines the desired future, compares it to where they are now, and lists all the things that need to be done. This list of ‘things to be done’ can often seem daunting. Regular focus on the vision of the future can give the creative pull needed to motivate those involved, however, the long list of ‘still to dos’ can get in the way.

What I find works is to design regular reviews into the process. This can involve the normal ‘future – present – todo’  thinking, but it should also involve looking back. Go back to your original discussions and look at where you have come from. Sometimes having a list of ‘things that have been done’ is useful. Regardless, we must frequently remind ourselves that just because we have not reached our destination, does not mean we are still where we started.

Look back, acknowledge the progress made, then refocus on the future – the motivational impact can be remarkable.

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