Turning Planning Into Action

Turning Planning Into Action

I’m still feeling great and riding high from our Retreat last week.  The amount of energy, enthusiasm, and creativity I witnessed was among the most amazing two days I’ve ever seen at LearningLeaders.  I absolutely loved the way that the entire Partnership was pulling together and supporting each other’s ideas.  I heard so many, “Yes, Ands…” and so few, “No, Buts…”

It was so rad. :)

Now comes the tough part, though.  Turning ideas into plans.  And turning plans into action.

This is honestly where most people and companies, since they are often aggregations of individual’s efforts, fail.  Heidi Grant, in an article from Harvard Business Review in 2014, famously proved that roughly 50% of commitments made in the workplace are not kept.  Let me be clear and say that this is NOT our target… We are on track for and should aim for way way higher than this.

If intention and action aren’t the same, then what holds us up?  Often it’s a few of the following:

  • Lack of priorities. Or unclear direction.
  • Competing priorities. Or distractions and temptations.
  • Too much to do. Or a combination of lack of priorities and competing priorities.
  • Lack of confidence. Or pushing actions to later because we want them to be perfect.

When an individual is challenged by any of these, the group suffers as well.  Of course, we don’t anticipate that we’ll fall victim to these - they appear so easy to avoid.  Yet in the moment, there are so many variables it seems to be impossible NOT to fall victim to them.

Over the course of the next week and change, we’ll all be focusing on solidifying goals to propose for our Key Results Areas for this half year.  Since I can understand some people can feel pressure about this, I thought I’d share a few tools you can put in your toolkit to reduce the pressure and stress from setting these priorities and goals, creating the corresponding action plans, and ultimately, achieving the goals you set for yourself!

Eisenhower Matrix - this is the simplest and often most helpful of the tools.  Simply draw a 2x2 grid on a piece of paper.  On the x-axis is urgency (high to low).  On the y-axis is importance (high to low).  Place all of your goals or action items somewhere on the grid that best fits the nature of the priority.  You’ll find the High Urgency and High Importance become the ‘DO’ category - these get done today.  The High Urgency and Low Importance become the ‘DELEGATE’ category (and yes - you can delegate to your ‘tired brain later in the afternoon.). The Low Urgency and High Importance become the ‘DECIDE’ category - these you can consider on a later date.  And the Low Urgency and Low Importance become the ‘DELETE’ category - skip these until you have everything else on your priority list completed.

Forced Ranking - similar to the Eisenhower Matrix and the Prioritize Everything Play we did on the Retreat.  This just takes the above exercise to the next level.  Once you have all of your initiatives or goals in quadrants, then rank everything one through ten.  If push came to shove and you could only pick one project to complete, what would it be and why?  Okay, that’s your number one.  Number two? Number three?  Start there and then come back in a day or two.

Presumptive Goal Setting - this tool, which we covered in the Goal Setting Workshop, helps you improve your confidence at accomplishing your most ambitious goals.  By rewording a goal ever so slightly, you can completely transform your relationship with the goal and optimize for completing it.  If lack of confidence in a certain area is holding you back from accomplishing a goal, Presumptive Goal Setting might just be your magic wand.

If/Then Planning - similar to Presumptive Goal Setting, use this tool if you’re facing a confidence crisis about actually getting something done.  Plan out a decision tree, “If I accomplish A, then I move onto B.  If not, then I tackle C.”  You might consider this a contingency plan, though I personally think it’s just probability-weighted and already baked into the original plan.  Thinking in If/Then circumstances turns your plans and actions into a system, similar to a computer.  That transfers the stress away from you being able to do things yourself and more onto the system as a whole.

Backwards Planning - the bread and butter of accomplishing ambitious goals.  Start at the end and work backwards step by step until you arrive at where you stand now.  Backwards planning not only gives you ‘fewer’ options to plan, which reduces uncertainty, but this method also exposes buffers which can sap valuable time and energy from the planning process.  Backwards Planning is a go-to for creating milestones for your projects and allowing you to judge whether or not the ‘Realistic’ component of SMART goals is valid.

Giving your best effort at using the above tools before approaching someone else to, “Just talk about it for a few minutes…” will naturally give you a more productive result.  Even if you want to bounce ideas off of someone else (which we all do in various natures of another), applying one or more of these tools will enable you to ask for more directed feedback, advice, or experience sharing than if you went into that conversation without thinking about it.

It’s often said that the more you prepare for the meeting, the greater the likelihood you are able to control the outcome.  Or, in the world of sports, some locker rooms might be familiar with the expression, “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.”  The thought processes aren’t so different.

Preparing to set your goals gives you the greatest possible likelihood to execute on achieving them.

Let’s convert on all the amazing ideation and innovation from last week.  Boil down those ideas this week even further and let them distill into something amazing.

Ideas to Plans.  Plans to Actions.  Actions to Outcomes.