Plans fail, but not because people lack the creativity to come up with ideas. Having great ideas is often more a hinderance than a help. The bigger challenge is execution. An elaborate plan with unclear goals and too many activities is hard to execute.
Quality planning models are scalable. They’ll work to organize your closet, but they’ll also organize your product launch or business targets.
There are some irrefutable aspects of planning that you have to consider. Without them, you’ll lose your way. To plan for anything, you have to set goals that progress you towards your overall goal, with steps which are realistic, but steps you also plan to measure in when following up.
Setting goals is the first place planners get lost. They sometimes confuse smaller goals with long term objectives. In the case of business planning, the big objective is to grow the business year over year, but monthly planning cannot achieve but 1/12th of that. We’re talking about the small term goals.
In the case of business planning, the big objective is to grow the business year over year, but monthly planning cannot achieve but 1/12th of that. In the case of organizing your closet, your overall target might be to organize your whole life, but the closet is only one part.
By this logic, your goal has to be realistic. Consider how you’ve been performing. You can average the results of your work the last three months or work from prior projects. The more honest you are with yourself, the more realistic your goals will be.
Your goal should push you, but not exhaust you. If this is your first time planning this way, consider this first time a learning lesson. You will get better over time. Better you set a goal you don’t hit than skip this step because it intimidates you.
Pick one goal. Make it measurable. Make it time-bound if you’re not using one month as your timeline. A goal with numerics is measurable. Goals that measure subjective elements like do better are hard to measure in the end.
- Weak goal: Improve our service.
- Improved version: Improve our monthly quality service score by 10% over the prior month.
You can measure the second one and it’s bound by time.
The action of your plan is where you will outline the strategies and tactics of how you plan to achieve your goal.
Strategies are broader, tactics are specific. Your strategy to improve your service scores, to borrow from the last paragraph, may include role-playing customer escalations with team members. That doesn’t describe the tactics of when and how you will role-play.
Start with your strategy, then give your tactics specific execution times. Load those tactics into your planner so you don’t forget.
Similar to the goal settings, realism is best. This is the part of the plan where most people try to do too much. They create a web of activities and tasks too complicated to follow.
After years in business, I’ve found that one strong strategy attached to a good goal, with 2-3 tactics is enough. More action planning is just that, more to do, not more effective.
Even the best-laid plans fail when the planners don’t bother to check progress. This is where our closet organization plan may not align exactly.
With small projects it’s just you, checking in with yourself. If it’s a long-term project you would be wise to load checkpoints into your calendar, with reminder notifications about where you should be. If it’s a one-day project, that would be silly.
If your plan stretches over one month, then you should follow-up weekly at least. In may make sense to touch base daily to make sure those executing the tactics have their days loaded with the right activities.
When you meet, review the plan, then check progress since your last meeting. You should keep a running log, perhaps on the back page of your plan if it’s in a paper form.
Your tolerance on execution, if the goals were realistic and the tactics reasonable, is a reflection of you as a driver. You are either teaching others to execute or you are teaching them that what you agree to is negotiable.
Perhaps the last section not included is to celebrate wins; especially team wins, even if they are just shy of the goal.
You may have to lower the bar to celebrate sometimes, but out of respect for that person with whom you are celebrating, don’t conceal what you are doing. Let people know when you are compromising. Tell them why even if it’s for maintaining morale. Otherwise, others will consider your integrity as weak.
Expecting the best of people doesn’t mean they always deliver. You have to have the scope of awareness to recognize if you are facing a one-off or a trend.
When you’re done celebrating, roll up your sleeves. It’s planning time again.