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Let’s say you’ve got a big problem to solve, or
You’ve got a problem, but you don’t know where to begin, or
You’re not even sure you’ve got a problem, but you know you need to make some changes.
Wherever you are, if you want to be someplace different, it always helps to start with a plan.
With an idea about the problem you want to solve, or some knowledge of the opportunity you want to fulfill, you have a good start.
Plan: noun — a detailed formulation of a program of action.–Merriam Webster dictionary
Some People Work Too Hard
Let me start by saying that some people work too hard.
Here are a couple examples:
Due to popular fiction, and wildly complicated things like moon landings, we’ve become convinced that plans have to be long, tedious, ultra-detailed, and nearly impossible to coordinate or execute. But the fact is, few things in life are as predictable as a moon landing: due to the physics involved, it could be planned down to the second. In fact, it had to be: in the final analysis, if they got the timing right on a few key maneuvers, everything else pretty much took care of itself. Gravity is ultra-reliable, and it was the secret weapon of the mission planners.
Due to the common news of big companies failing projects, we’ve become concerned that if they can’t get it right, nobody can. But the fact is, making big projects bigger is a business model practiced by corporate managers and consultants everywhere. In the final analysis, anyone who can’t successfully grow their organization and explain how someone else should pay for it can’t be successful in corporate or consulting management.
I suggest you leave the physics to the rocket scientists and the massive projects to the people with massive budgets.
The fact is, one of the reasons those plans get to be so massive is the need of managers, contractors, and consultants to grow budgets, expenses, and revenues.
Their jobs depend on ever-expanding budgets and scale. When budgets go the other way, pretty soon somebody gets laid off…
Unless you’re vying for part of a massive budget, there’s no need to construct a massive, complicated, probably unworkable plan.
I assume, if you’re still reading, you’re not so concerned about playing politics and sales games to grow a budget. You won’t find that here. I wasn’t very good at it.
If you’re still here, I assume you’re interested in actually figuring out how to solve problems, manage change, and change your life.
I’m going to show you a modern management practice used by companies like Google, who have historically been more interested in results than budget bloat.
By design, this practice accounts for uncertainty, which is an important consideration in any innovation involving humans.
Instead of assuming every element is knowable and controllable (definitely hasn’t ever happened in my experience, and management books and case studies are full of evidence and reasons why), instead, it offers simplicity, which is great when you want a lightweight planning process and a simpler path to quick results.
Where to Begin
With some clarity about your purpose, you’re poised to start elaborating on the plan you’ll use to achieve it.As you think about your objectives, you may:
- see some actions you can take to move in the direction of realizing those goals.
- see some ways other people could help you realize your goals.
- have seen ways your environment (your various places) may help or hinder you reaching those goals.
Now it’s time to update your list of goals with more goals and actions you and others can fulfill to help you realize your goals.
- It may help to think about one product goal at a time and write whatever intermediate goals and actions will be necessary to meet them.
- Similarly, write whatever actions come to mind where people and places are concerned.
- With your ‘new, improved’ list of actions and goals, your new goals may also raise new actions to take. Write those down too.
Review your list of goals and actions, and rank them into whatever order seems most reasonable for the named actions and goals.
- You may wish to start with easy things and ‘low hanging fruit’. These have the immediate benefit of demonstrable success early on, which is inspiring and inspires continued action and progress.
- You may see there are things that are clear LMT required before other things can be completed. Of course, schedule these earlier in your plan.
- Finally, you may see some things can be broken down into smaller items or tasks. Breaking these down helps to visualize the work to be performed and facilitates faster starting and finishing of them, as the easier a task appears the more quickly we are to start and finish it.
Caution: As you create this list, it can seem overwhelming. So much to do!
Take a long, slow, deep breath.
Repeat the deep breath and exhale cycle one more time.
- You only need to do one thing at a time.
- You only need to ask one person at a time to do one thing.
- Every action you take on these areas is progress in the right direction.
- Any thing you see to do that you are not doing or where you’re not seeing progress, is a place to look more closely and ask, “how can this work be broken down into smaller items that can be started and finished more easily or quickly (write about the two-minute and 10-minute rules)?” and “who else can I ask about how to do this?”, then ask them!
How far you’ve come:
Your Power Board (or whatever you’ve chosen to call yours), now has your:
- Product definition
- The Plans you created before and in this lesson
Next: Ask your key team members how they’d improve the plan
Caution: Don’t get stuck now, and don’t get attached to your plan, unless you intend to go it all alone.
Note: To get the best results in any undertaking, NEVER go it alone.
Take a team.
Take the right team.
Next: Enlist a team to help you create a plan
“None of us is as smart as all of us.”–Ken Blanchard
“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”–Warren Buffett
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”–Dwight D. Eisenhower
Now we have preliminary purpose and initial goals defined, and we’ve assessed our people and places. (Here’s a link, in case you missed the first part of this section. Don’t worry, it’ll open in a new window and leave this one open for when you return.)
Next, we can share our goals with our people and get their help and support.
Share your goals and other ideas. Ask their opinion. Record their feedback.
Create a plan with your team.
This will help improve your goals and product designs, and it will give your team members the opportunity to become committed members of your team who will help you meet your goals.
“To think is easy. To act is hard. But the hardest thing in the world is to act in accordance with your thinking.”–Johann von Goethe
Plan your purpose. Plot your path. Perform and produce.
Things don’t always go as planned, so it’s helpful to have someone in our corner, who you can rely on to support you and keep you moving in the right direction.
“Everyone’s got a plan until he gets punched in the mouth.”–Mike Tyson
As we begin and create our first product descriptions, goals, and plans, we will occasionally alter those in response to learnings, and to take advantage of new opportunities and challenges that arise.
After you’ve defined your purpose, identified your people (team) and places, it’s time to continue work on your elements of the plan and hand off ownership and execution of the plans you will direct others to manage.
“Always, Always have a plan.”–Rick Riordan
Your assignment, should you choose to accept it.
Create a Plan with Your Team: Improve, expand, and detail your goals.
Share your goals broadly and courageously.
Feeling fearful, embarrassed, or hopeless about sharing?
Share your goals with others, and ask for their reaction and support.
One of the values of diversity in teams and brainstorming is: others have a unique perspective that enables them to see how to improve our work. If nothing else, they bring a set of biases and beliefs that are not constrained by OUR personal history, so they’ll speak of the things we won’t, and they’ll not be bound by the beliefs and assumptions that have restricted our thoughts and actions.
Create a Plan with your Team:
- Supportive family members and friends.
- Core team members.
- Extended team members.
- People in online groups and forums.
- People in your Mastermind group
- Facebook group members and friends
Get the Free OKRsI template
For more information
- Merriam-Webster’s definition of “plan”
- We Needed A Miracle. We Created A Plan.
- For large plans or larger teams, there are more advanced (and complex) methods for creating and managing them. Ask me about them. I’ll happily work with you to help you choose tools that may be best for you. Here’s some other ways to manage complex work and plans with multiple team members.
- How to set (and achieve) goals based on your personality type
- People: Build Team. Grow Great Results.
- Co-creation: The Power of Onlyness, by Nilofer Merchant
- How to set (and achieve) goals based on your personality type
- X marks the spot: Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay. Link.
- Practice: Photo by Kobu Agency on Unsplash. Link.
- Steps: Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash. Link.
- Enlist Your Team: Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash. Link.
- Warren Buffett: By Mark Hirschey – Work of Mark Hirschey, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower: By White House – , Public Domain, Link.
- Johann von Goethe: By Louise Seidler – “Bibliothek des allgemeinen und praktischen Wissens. Bd. 5” (1905), Deutsche Literaturgeschichte, Seite 113, Public Domain, Link.
- Mike Tyson: By Brian Birzer http://www.brianbirzer.com, CC BY 2.0, Link.
- Rick Riordan: By Rhododendrites – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link.