You’ve heard it said that failing to plan is planning to fail. You have also likely had times when you didn’t plan or didn’t do it well enough. While we all agree with that wisdom of planning, we don’t always implement a planning process that improves our success rate. While planning (especially for big projects) can be complex, there are some foundational principles that will help you plan with greater consistency, confidence, and success.
- Know where you want to be. To build a plan you must know what you are trying to accomplish. The clearer this picture, the more motivated you will be to plan, and your plan will be more focused and helpful. Create a crystal-clear multisensory picture of success. Once everyone involved in planning has the same picture you set yourselves up to build the most effective plan.
- Understand your environment. The same goal with different circumstances would require a different plan. Consider your current situation, both internally and externally. What are the factors that will support your plan? What people, cultures, opinions, economic factors, and other features of your situation might require adjustments to your plan?
- Determine the resources you need. The types of resources you need will depend on your goal and situation. Consider resources such as time, priority, skills, experience, dollars and more. The key question is: what will we need to get to our goal? The things you don’t already possess or have access to need to be identified and obtained (or the plan must change if those things aren’t available).
- Identify the anticipated obstacles. As you look at the murky path between where you are and your goal, what are the concerns, possibilities, worries and “what-ifs” that you think about. While you don’t know which of these things might come up as you work your plan, the more of them you have identified, the better. Once you have a list, your anxiety about them will drop, but more importantly you can begin to create contingency plans for these possibilities. Don’t let this stop you from progressing, rather use this contingency planning as a way to keep you sharp and ready to adjust.
- Be ready to adjust. Doing the previous step will help you stay in an anticipatory mindset, but as you implement your plan there will be other changes you didn’t anticipate. A key team member becomes unavailable. There is a significant upheaval in your business, the competitive environment or economy. Some people use this reality of the unknown to not plan, but to “wait and see.” Instead of that passive, almost cynical (what’s the use everything will change anyway) approach to planning, just recognize that the thinking and planning should better prepare you for the change in the situation, unless you become too focused on the plan itself.
- Be willing to create a new plan. Depending on the size of the goal or project, the plan can take a tremendous amount of time and effort. In that process it is easy to treat the plan as the thing, rather than as the vehicle to your goal. Remember that while planning is important, the plan needs to be malleable, and perhaps needs to be scraped to create a new plan. Being ready to create a new plan simply means all the effort is about the goal or outcome, not about the plan.
There are 100 things you can do that will help you be a better planner and build better plans. But when you practice these foundational principles, you will get better results. The best thing about these six principles is that you can do them. Rather than thinking of planning with a capital P (and putting it off), just spend some time thinking with your team about these six areas, writing down your ideas, and you won’t be failing to plan.
Most all teams and organizations set goals. Fewer achieve those goals with regularity. Why does that happen? One reason is that planning for goal achievement is done poorly, or at the wrong time. If you want to achieve more of the goals you set (as a team or organization – and even for yourself) Join me for this better-than-a-webinar, virtual session December 5th from 1:30-2:30 pm ET. All the details and registration information can be found here.