In today’s turbo-charged, nitro-powered, gotta-go world, we are pushed to perform faster and, in many environments, we are rewarded for speed. However, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the right objectives on time if you are not clear on what success really looks like, on the resources required, and have a plan. Taking the time to prepare and identify a strategy to achieve success will prevent truly detrimental derailers and, in turn, help you beat your deadlines.
Ready, Set, Pause
Sometime the most valuable action you can take is waiting an extra day to gather what you need, ask questions, gather additional materials, fill in the critical spots where you need more data. Be sure to find out about procedures, policies, politics, or strategies before you create your plan. As the planner, you are taking all available working knowledge and funneling it into a series of steps and procedures to create a positive outcome. Know what you’re planning, obstacles to avoid, and the most effective route to achieving your goals.
When planning and organizing, it is vital to gather all the available knowledge you can about your initiative. This knowledge comes in a variety forms: videos, literature, reports, and other published outside knowledge; discussions with colleagues or people we know who have taken on similar projects; evaluation of the organization’s prior experience in dealing with a similar initiative; input from stakeholders for this particular endeavor; unearthing and addressing any sensitivities the project has; and last but not least, our own accumulated experience and ability to plan.
Temper Your Emotions
Sometimes we come up with great ideas that look like winning solutions. Temptation, enthusiasm, and passion can get the better of us, and we rush into action with more eagerness than a gold miner who has struck gold. Being powered by our emotions and energy can be fantastic, as this energy can launch you to quickly achieve milestones and blow through any early obstacles. Invariably, though, emotion can only take you and your team so far and you may start slowing down, and then an obstacle or situation comes along that stops you dead in your tracks: Money runs out. We lose a key resource or a supplier misses a deadline. Stuck, we might not know how to take the next step, or know even what the next step is. Balance emotions with preparation, contingency planning, and keeping your eye on the goal in order to go the distance
Success Is a Marathon
Like marathoners who start too fast, people who run at breakneck speeds, rushing their ideas, risk running into a wall that is truly debilitating. The new-initiative sprint often looks like this: amazing idea, coupled with passion, enthusiastic leadership support, and an adrenalin shot of get-it-done-now launches a poorly planed initiative into the cinder block wall called reality.
To avoid hitting this wall, begin by mapping out an initiative for the department or organization, spend a couple of extra days—or weeks, if you have it—to organize the business knowledge that will inform and strengthen the planning process.
Consider these questions prior to launching your next initiative:
- What research needs to be done?
- Who can you call for input and feedback on your plan?
- How did the organization achieve related initiatives in the past?
- What are vital resources and are they available?
- What are the most significant obstacles to success and how do you address them?
- Beyond emotion, what are the data to support the initiative?
All of these are simple questions that bolster your plans and help eliminate the painful moment when your great idea hits the wall and you have to start over.