If you aren’t a runner or haven’t trained for a distance race, you likely have never heard of a “negative split.” Simply put, a negative split is when your performance for the second half of your run, measured in minutes, is superior to your first half. The idea behind the negative split as an aspiration is that you set out to improve upon your own performance, increase your stamina over time, and most importantly, to finish strong every time. Like many other things in my life as a runner, I think the negative split has many benefits in the world of career or company performance.
As consultants, we spend considerable time marketing, competing for, preparing for, and ultimately delivering service, on a given project. We start incredibly strong – energetic enthusiasm, innovative workshops, creative, detailed and meticulous deliverables. As the months (and often years) go by and the project takes on a life of its own. It’s often difficult to maintain the same level of focus and dedicate the same amount of passionate enthusiasm as you once had for the project. This is equally true for the owners and hospital employees, if not more so. This is where the right firm makes all the difference. The consulting leader needs to recognize the declining energy, regroup by revisiting the project plan, and re-energize the team by bringing new, interactive tools to the table. By adding new tools and creative approaches, the project stays fresh and the ideas keep coming. Most importantly, the chances of “project fatigue” – a condition that plagues even the most engaged and passionate hospital participants – is reduced.
So what does this have to do with running a negative split? The goal for every project should be to finish stronger than you started, with more energy, more focus, and a higher level of performance in the last quarter than you had in the first one. When this is achieved, the clients expectations are exceeded and the project is sure to end on a positive note versus simply fading or stalling out on its own because the boxes are checked and the tasks are completed. A negative split project almost certainly will achieve a more sustained level of engagement than a neutral project and the momentum that results will encourage an earlier start to the next project. Ultimately, this approach achieves memorable and sustainable results and a much better project experience for everyone involved.
Juliet L. Rogers, PhD, MPH, is President & CEO of Blue Cottage Consulting.