The one thing you need to do to make a plan successful


Coming up with a plan is simple, isn’t it?

Make a list of steps, work on them, think about them, tune them and act on them.

Once that’s done, we’re done and can get on with life as usual. Success is bound to come, isn’t it?

What do you think is missing from this process?

Imagine the last strategy session you were part of. The chances are that a bunch of people got in a room – minds on the things that they were working on earlier.

There is an agenda – everyone gets ready to go through it. Someone manages the discussion. Everyone gets a say. And the hours pass by.

Ideas go on the flipchart – mindmaps sprout with lines weaving across the page. Everyone is watching the MIPITR – and it’s not you.

The MIPTR is the Most Important Person In The Room. That person has power. What they say goes. So, everyone watches the MIPTR and says the right things to stay on the right side.

That’s not fair. Some people don’t. Some people have the guts to stand up and say what they think. They make good points that go on the flipchart and everyone nods, and some people hate them for being so brave.

The day goes by. In the last hour, someone starts to work through the actions and put together a list. The hard work of planning is over.

Then what happens? The plan gets emailed around. If it’s a very organised organisation, there are regular catch up meetings. Everyone makes sure they’ve got no unfinished actions. It all looks good and on track.

The months and quarters go by. It’s Q4 – what’s happening? Has the plan been successful?

Don’t know. If there is an organisation that’s still tracking its actions and plan nine months later – it needs a medal. That’s not how things usually work. In reality, after the first couple of months, the plan is no longer top of mind, and people forgot all about it.

This is not new. Dwight D. Eisenhower talks about something he heard in the army – *plans are worthless – but planning is everything.

So, what’s the missing ingredient?

The secret is found in a scene from the Godfather. Michael and Don Corleone are going over their plans and say the following words:

VITO CORLEONE (after a long pause) I don’t know – your wife and children – are you happy with them?

MICHAEL Very happy…

VITO CORLEONE That’s good. (then) I hope you don’t mind the way I – I keep going over this Barzini business…

MICHAEL No, not at all…

VITO CORLEONE It’s an old habit. I spend my life trying not to be careless – women and children can be careless, but not men. (then) How’s your boy?

The secret is to keep going over the plans. In the open, with your team. To talk about them – remind everyone what the plan was in the first place. Tell everyone else about the plan. Tell the people working for the people in the room.

A plan on paper is worthless. Actions alone are worthless. A plan will only be successful when everyone knows what the plan is and what they need to do.

And doing that is harder than it looks. That’s because one person, usually the one who came up with the plan, is completely clear on the plan.

Everyone else is trying to catch up. Talk with them about it. Let them restate it in their own words. Let them ask questions. Listen – and tweak the words in the plan to answer those questions up front next time.

The more you talk about your plan with the people you need to execute it, the more likely it is to be successful.

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