Ever since they were little, my kids have always loved the wack-a-mole games at the arcade. They get total joy and elation from putting a token in the game, grabbing that hammer and wacking away at the little creatures who pop up randomly from the holes on the board. They could play for hours and use all the money available to keep wacking and wacking and wacking at the moles popping up on the board.
Recently, I had a conversation about a manager reassigned to help turn around a problem-ridden department. I learned, after several months, the manager was struggling to settle things down and get this department headed in a positive, productive direction. He was still trapped in the spiral of addressing minor, daily issues but had not been able to get to any of the serious problems plaguing the department.
He was demonstrating wack-a-mole management.
When we are called on to fix a big mess or we start a new job or we are put in charge of a new department, project or team, it is very easy to fall into the trap of wack-a-mole managing the situation. We spend days, weeks and sometimes months running from issue to issue but not really accomplishing anything. Just like the arcade game, we’re wacking and wacking and wacking away but not really connecting with anything.
Wack-a-mole is a losing game. You’ll never be fast enough. As soon as you think you’ve found the rhythm, the game will change. You’re supposed to expend tons of energy. You’re not supposed to win. And, by trying to hit everything that moves, we end up missing so many things along the way. This leaves us and those around us feeling exhausted, discouraged and confused — usually with nothing to show for it.
Put that hammer down. It’s time to play a new game.
When faced with a new challenge, first take time to observe the current situation. Look for the patterns and habits contributing to negative results. Determine what actions are needed to turn the negative trends into positive ones. Decide how to measure and report the results.
Then make time to order the tasks to tackle. Choose which problems you will address and in what order. Give yourself reasonable timelines and deadlines. Share this information with others to make sure everyone involved is accountable. Prioritize and delegate all subsequent issues accordingly. You’ll be amazed how quickly small issues lessen in frequency or dissipate altogether when everyone is on the same page and realizes distractions and dissention will not be tolerated.
Now work your plan and WIN THE PRIZE!!