Lately, I’ve worked on or have seen several projects that have lacked significant follow-up, and it was apparent how critical this step is to achieving results and so I’m devoting a lead article to the subject.

The best plans are useless without follow through and follow-up. I’ve found it quite amazing the number of highly paid, intelligent leaders that do not value or do not make the time to follow-up. And the results show it there is a significant difference between what is achieved with follow-up vs. without it. It is possible that the objective is achieved, yet when you compare the objective, the time, the cost and the resources, the project accompanied with follow-up will prevail. So, here are a few tips about follow-up.

First, the ideal scenario that yields the best results is when a plan, list or something similar is developed. It doesn’t have to be fancy or use the latest technology (a scrap piece of paper with action items will likely suffice). This will provide the structure for your follow-up. It is somewhat similar to the value of developing a process in an operations setting the foundation.

Second, prioritize your follow-up. It isn’t necessary to follow-up on everything. If you are working on a project, prioritize the tasks. Then, follow-up on only those critical tasks (perhaps on the critical path, meaning there are other tasks that are dependent on the task, or just those that you think are “A” in priority). If you follow-up on only the tasks that are key, the people related to those tasks will intuitively realize the implied importance and prioritize accordingly. Additionally, the more you are able to explain why the specific tasks are important/ why you are following up, their value, etc, the more the people responsible for the tasks will understand and value them themselves. On the other hand, if you followed up on every task, it would just become a nuisance, and you’d likely be ignored.

Third, follow-up. Think function & not form. It doesn’t matter whether you follow-up via email, phone, via a fancy software or whatever. What matters is that you follow-up. You will achieve the best results if you change your follow-up style to the person you are following up with. For example, if you are following up with someone who reads email voraciously but doesn’t typically talk on the phone, send an urgent email. On the other hand, if you are following up with someone who enjoys talking with people (regardless of whether he/she has email), pick up the phone. When you follow up, make sure to follow up in advance of the due date on critical tasks and critical path items. This gives the person an opportunity to remember and plan for the task. I’ve found that 99% of the people will complete the task with this type of follow-up, whereas, without the follow-up, I might receive a 50% completion ratio, mainly due to conflicting priorities and busy schedules.

It isn’t complex, expensive or requires capital investment to follow-up, it just requires a bit of energy, yet, it yields significant results. So, give it a try. I bet you’ll be amazed by the results