Biz Tips: Talking about a plan is not a plan

Biz Tips: Talking about a plan is not a plan


Talking about a plan is not a plan

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Talking about a plan is not a plan. Promoting the idea of a plan is not a plan. Showing some bullet points about the plan in a PowerPoint presentation is not a plan. And even when you have a plan, it isn’t any good to anyone unless it is put into action.

There is a story that John Maxwell likes to use — there are 4 frogs sitting on a log. One says to the others “we need to swim to the other side of the river to get some of the best flies to eat.” The other 3 frogs agreed and said that it was a great idea. How many frogs remain on the log? The answer is 4. Everyone agreed to a really great plan, but no one did anything to make it happen.

This happens on a day to day basis. Some of the plans aren’t critical like where to go to lunch, when to have lunch, who gets invited to lunch. But when the plan is for the business, or for your growth as a leader, then a plan starts to be really critical to that overall success.

Small businesses can survive many times with loose knit plans that don’t have elaborately laid out information on who exactly is doing what, how and by when. But as pointed out in a recent article by Robert Sutton in the Wall Street Journal, one of the four big mistakes a leader can make on decision making is to talk about plans but not actually follow-through with the action of implementation. When there is a essentially a vaporware plan that is presented by the owner or CEO or top management, there is an initial excitement about the new plan. More people may talk about the plan and how great it will be to the business.

There may even be departments talking about their plans based on the talked about plan. But over time the horizon keeps getting further away, timetables that were a little nebulous become non-existent. Different people may work on what they think might be the plan but there is no coordination so pretty soon engineering is working on something that marketing can’t sell. Ecommerce has a page waiting for details but production planning didn’t put in the information into the system. Manufacturing is gearing up for production but purchasing bought parts based on the wrong revision of a drawing. Then the employees loose faith in any sort of talk about plans. They go into a wait and see mentality and any new product introduction gets stretched out even further because it is “I will believe it when I see it” way of thinking . The credibility of those in management degrades and when something is actually acted upon the time to get everyone on board is increased.

“I never dreamed about success, I worked for it.” — Estee Lauder

So how does a company avoid these problems? The answer of course is leadership. No matter what the situation it all comes back to being a real leader. One way to look at this particular issue is that voicing a big plan can help excite the employees to be more motivated to work on the project but the announcement can only be made when the leader has actually developed the plan and consulted the different departments and personnel on the role for each and what is expected of them and what they can expect from the leader. While the creation of all the minute details is not needed, there should be an action plan, even if some of the action plan includes a portion of investigation. Put a time box on it and start moving.

Another way to approach it is with describing objectives and detailing the key results to be accomplished in order to reach a major goal for the company. Your goal could be to become a player in the HVAC instrument business. What are the objectives that need to be accomplished to achieve that goal? One objective might be to develop a new instrument that is a crossover product that fits your current customer groups as well as the HVAC market. The next objective is to develop a product that is primarily aimed at the HVAC market with only some uses for existing customers and then the third objective would be to develop a third product that is only HVAC in nature.

From these objectives a set of key results are identified to determine your progress and potential success. A first key result is the identification of a product that will work in both markets and has a connection to what you currently manufacture. It could be a pressure measurement device or a gas detection meter. This needs to have a time box around that activity so that the development team doesn’t spend a year coming up with an idea. Second key result to develop a draft plan for the product that includes estimates for costs, revenues, time table. This is measured by the actual development of the plan. And so on until you get to the end with a product that can be measured by amount sold into each market.

A benefit of the objectives and key results approach is that it removes the luster of a pretty idea and burnishes it for all to see when progress is being made and that if they are on the critical path for success that they need to get their action plan happening. No plan = no key result accomplished.

The same is true for the growth plan for the individual. A lot of people talk about starting a business, a side hustle, or being a better leader in their company. But it can’t happen without a plan.

Words my inspire but only action creates change. — Simon Sinek

The growth of an individual or a company requires a plan and not just a plan that is talked about but a plan that is implemented and measured. Work with an accountability buddy or a mentor or a real coach. One way for a plan to come alive is to talk about it with others but unless the first step is taken to make it happen it is only just a good idea.

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