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How to pick impactful Practice Development

This article explains the concept of Practice Development and gives some tips for how to make the best of it.

What is it?

Practice Development is when you contribute to an internal initiative for your company that does not directly impact sales. e.g. Hosting a “lunch and learnto share your skills with your colleagues or planning a fundraiser for a charity.

Contributing to one of these Practice Development initiatives is a great way to introduce yourself to team mates across your company, open doors to new opportunities, or explore your interests, but it is easy to get the priority of these initiatives wrong or to put all your efforts into Practice Development ideas that don't make the impact you wanted to achieve.

The rest of this article gives tips on:

When to prioritise Practice Development

If you were asked to collect photos for an internal meeting, and you were also asked to prepare a presentation for a client meeting. It would not be acceptable to deliver the photos and fail to prepare the presentation.

It’s easy to make this kind of mistake when starting a new role because each company has different concepts on how you should prioritise competing tasks and people will often seek your attention without fully reviewing your existing or upcoming tasks. So how can you sort what is important and what is not? And where does Practice Development fit into all of this?

Use a list to guide how you treat your work. The following list is an example, yours may look different, and it's important that you develop your own thinking on your priorities based on your company culture and use that to guide where your attention is allocated.

Notice that Practice Development is not ridiculously high on this list, it's important, but not more important than delivering for your client.

  1. Money / Health
  2. Timesheets / Compliance / Mandatory Training
  3. Client Work
  4. Business Development e.g. Creating proposals to gain more business for the company
  5. Optional Training
  6. Practice Development e.g. Hosting an internal call to share specialist knowledge

How to pick impactful Practice Development

With the time you do dedicate to Practice Development, you want to maximise your impact. You can use these questions to help you choose impactful Practice Development opportunities

  1. Are you solving a REAL problem? Is this a shared problem that other people see value in solving?
  2. Is it ALIGNED TO A STRATEGIC outcome? i.e. Are you pushing in the same direction as the company?
  3. Is it DONEABLE? Can you complete the task, or is it an ongoing responsibility?
  4. Is it clear WHO WOULD OWN the output or system once you finished creating it?
  5. Is the work GENERALISED? i.e. You should avoid making something that becomes specialist knowledge that only you can maintain, because it will limit your ability to take on new initiatives in the future
  6. Can it be complete WITHIN 6 MONTHS?
  7. Will you be assisting a LARGE AUDIENCE or HIGH-IMPACT STAKEHOLDER?
  8. Does the effort produce something that has MULTIPLE USES?
  9. Does a version of this effort NOT ALREADY EXIST?
  10. Will the product have a LONG SHELF-LIFE, or be sent to the bottom-desk-drawer for eternity?
  11. Does it let you LEAD OR COLLABORATE WITH A TEAM?
  12. Will you learn a VALUABLE SKILL?
  13. Is it aligned to your FUTURE ROLE?
  14. Can the work be presented back in a DEPARTMENT MEETING?

Additionally, you might like to avoid the following initiatives that do not often meet the above criteria:

Too many Practice Development ideas are well-intentioned, interesting, and exciting, but ultimately don't lead to meaningful or impactful outcomes because filters like these weren't applied upfront.

I'm hopeful that these tips will help you determine when to focus on Practice Development and which Practice Development idea should get your attention.

As a team mate, how can you politely say ‘no’ to an opportunity?

It’s a very common situation that you can be approached by a colleague or a leader to get involved in an opportunity or team effort in addition to your daily duties.

If you’re new to a company, you may feel obligated to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity that comes up - which can quickly lead to burnout if done without limits.

Next time you can see this happening, I encourage you to give yourself a pause to consider if the opportunity passes the tests above. Will it be the best use of your discretionary time?

If you determine that you should politely say ‘no’ then you may like to use these phrases:

As a team mate, how can you politely leave a team?

It is natural and normal to exceed your contribution to a group. You may feel like you’re attending calls but not adding any value. Or the group’s objectives may feel unclear.

One solution may be to organise a private conversation with the group leader and communicate that you would like to leave the group.

You may like to use this script:

As an opportunity leader, how can you recruit a team member?

You have a directive or an idea that will need a team of people. How can you recruit people to help you?

And how can you do that without accidentally creating pressure for someone else to say ‘yes’?

You may like to use this script: