Covid-19 makes NOW a good time to conduct a start/stop/continue analysis
With COVID-19 upending the workplaces everywhere, we are all learning new things about our jobs. Some activities and projects, we are finding, are not as critical as we once thought. Others have value that has gone largely unappreciated.
To make the most of this period of disruption, now may be the right time for your organization to conduct a formal Start/Stop/Continue analysis.
What is a Start/Stop/Continue Analysis?
Start/Stop/Continue is based on a simple premise. Organizations tend to add new activities, projects and relationships over time without necessarily eliminating old ones. Eventually, everyone grows over-committed. When a promising new opportunity presents itself, few have the time and resources to consider it.
A Stop/Start/Continue analysis can help put an end to a perpetually growing workload by helping you identify where to focus your energy. It can also keep your team from experiencing burnout.
How does it work?
Begin by defining your group – for example, a department or management team – and assembling them in person or over a video conference. Using an old-fashioned flipchart or create-as-you-go PowerPoint, a facilitator then guides participants through a series of three discussions.
What should we start doing?
The group’s first task is to make a list of fresh ideas: processes, initiative or activities that can help your organization chart a new course for the remainder of the pandemic and beyond. Get your team’s creative juices flowing by asking thought-provoking questions, such as:
- How has COVID changed your business and what new ideas should we consider as a result?
- If money was no object, where and how would you invest it?
- If we added another person on your team, what is the first new assignment you would give them?
What should we stop doing?
Next identify work activities that can potentially be eliminated. These are tasks, processes or projects that tend to take more time or produce more stress than the value they deliver is worth. In some cases, these may be once-useful activities that have simply run their course or that no longer make sense, given your new work environment. By removing these activities from your workload, you free up time and resources to focus on pursuits that benefit your core mission. To identify potential activities to stop, ask:
- What tasks do you mentally push to the bottom of your to-do list? Why is it so easy to defer them?
- What activities no longer make sense or are impractical in the “new normal”?
- If you were about to leave for vacation, what projects would you delay until you returned and why?
- Will permanently stopping any of these activities affect other people in your company? If so, how?
What should we continue doing?
The final discussion phase focuses on identifying activities that contribute to your organization’s success. In particular, participants should be encouraged to point out efforts that are working well. This may include pieces of a larger process that the group wishes to stop. The facilitator will want to pay particular attention to activities that support customer retention and employee engagement. Questions that help draw out this information include:
- What activities do we do that best exemplify our corporate culture?
- What are your favorite memories of winning over customers or solving challenging problems?
- What parts of your job are most fulfilling?
- What are we doing now that we should do more of?
What Comes Next
When the discussions are finished, you’ll have a list of ideas. The next challenge is to evaluate and prioritize them, deciding which to implement now – and which to save for later. You’ll then need to identify a leadership and innovation team to move the ideas forward and develop any new initiatives that result. Many organizations prefer to implement some ideas quickly to show staff that their opinions matter and to validate the process’s value.
Before disbanding, that team should schedule the next Start, Stop, Continue analysis for six or 12 months down the road. The findings these processes deliver can be valuable whether you’re in a pandemic or not.
The bottom line: COVID-19 is driving changes at many organizations. When the pandemic ends, your company may look very different than it did before it started. A Start, Stop, Continue analysis can help you emerge stronger, more resilient and prepared for whatever comes next.