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Any Brazilians out there? I have created a book club to discuss the 9 Lies in Portuguese. You are welcome to join at: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8807040/
I can only echo Teresa Quinlan’s comment below. Leadership and management teams could benefit very much from applying some of the core principles of Scrum to their planning. The idea is that you work in small and very frequent iterations so that you can keep the ability to work with the detail, without this detail becoming quickly obsolete.
The framework of a plan is necessary, I believe and in my experience, AND the people that are part of the team for the plan need to be able to execute the deliverables/roles they have in that plan. And one thing that hasn’t been mentioned yet is the skill set for the people to deal with ambiguity. When, where and how curve balls will show up, the ability to move forward and move fast with only parts of the information. This is not something everyone can do well. What you’re referencing a lot here is very similar to Agile practices and principles. Scrum is a framework that identifies ‘the best intelligence wins’ because of agility, dealing with ambiguity, utilizing the strengths of the individuals as a collective unit. I agree – the framework of a plan or goal must be in place and the intelligence to adapt to achievement of that goal to make it actually happen.
I know I am several months late on this, but here is a link to a classic HBR article that is quite relevant here. https://hbr.org/product/manager-s-job-folklore-and-fact-hbr-onpoint-enhanced-edition/5429-PDF-ENG?autocomplete=true
All good stuff. The check in, yes, is critical. This assumes, however, that the manager who is doing the check in is one in which people want to check in with. Said differently, there were managers I wanted to avoid because the check ins were NOT focused and I ended up with more work or confusing directions. Trust and skill on the manager’s part is critical to good, healthy productive check ins…
I remember knowing this before I was a manager, but I’ve forgotten it in the last 15 years of annual planning retreats. I remember the transition well: I was so surprised at the LACK of data that leaders had. I had assumed, as in individual contributor, that they were simply making bad decisions with good data. I was determined to try and find more and better data. So maybe part of the “over-planning” is about trying to find a sure thing, some Zoltar the Magnificent that will take our fabulous plans and spit out a to-do list. Something that will just relieve us from the abject uncertainty. But now I remember. It’s the best intelligence and the trust we have in the people we develop.
How do we balance or prioritize the achievement of an agreed mid term goal and getting lost in the daily activities that can de-focus from the original goal? Do some king of Planning + check in against the planning + change the planning if needed?
Hey Bruno. Such a great question and so many people struggle with this, especially teams! I’ve been emersing myself into Agile practice and principles and Scrum and Toyota Kata as frameworks for applying those principles. What I’ve been learning is that there are tremendous frameworks that allow for the kind of focused flexibility that you’re talking about here.
As Chris discusses below, frequent check in meetings not only are important to following up on objectives and plans, they are the key to leaders developing closer relationships with the people they are leading.
Just got on this group site and the concepts are great. We are in the midst of planning now and the daily check-in is a challenge for us. Some of our front line leaders have 15-20 reports and find it impossible to check-in with that many people weekly, with other responsibilities.
Some have started doing small group huddles as a compromise. Would these be as effective as the 1 on 1’s? Our team is engaged, based on our surveys and the trust is high. We are just really, really busy…….
For almost 10 years, I’ve been doing weekly one on one meetings (check-ins) with my direct reports. For a while, I would question the value of “sticking to it”, as those meetings would sometime feel like such a chore. There were always some employees that clearly didn’t want to be there either. I continuously explored other forums and tools (plug to the guys at Manager Tools and 15/five) that helped me make these weekly check ins more effective and to the point. I could not agree more strongly with Truth #2. Plans and priorities change every week, everyday! Stay the course and stay engaged with your team: trusting your people, sharing the data/updates you see each week, and make sense of it together….it absolutely is a cornerstone to team engagement, alignment, effectiveness.
Chris. I have had a similar experience. Every time I have let the routine check-ins fall by the wayside I end up coming back there eventually. The value is sometimes hard to quantify for a guy that likes numbers, but it is there.
Wow, how timely. We are currently in our final stage of our 2019 Strategic plan and this insight is provocative. Our company does the usual Vision, Mission statements and then that flows down to the departments for their dept strat plan. With this truth, slowly, maybe we can begin to develop a new culture. Thanks so much for your insights. Love it!!
I love this dialogue and very timely for some work I am doing. We are in the “planning” stages of a project. Many on the “steering” committee want to see a very detailed plan for the entire project yet there are so many unknowns that it is impossible. I think flipping the narrative from planning to intelligence is quite inspired and worthy of consideration.
I have been doing check-ins with my direct reports since July. Every week, it allows me to understand what they feel their top priorities are for the week and leads to a good discussion on whether those are the right priorities. We can then mutually determine where/how I can help them. We are now in a good cadence, and I have everyone on my team doing it without having to nudge them anymore.
Interesting perspective on the plan and I totally agree with the whole check-in method. My question/challenge is the Executive Summary, in my experience this is a summary of progress and can be 1-3 weeks old after it has been collated and mashed together from various team or project work streams. It rarely focusses on the challenges or where help is needed rather presents a “rosy” exec friendly view.
My company implemented Standout in July and the beauty is in the simplicity of the check-in. Leaders are having real time conversations with their teams on a weekly basis instead of the yearly review of things that were not changed or a future of things that would never change. Long live the check-in!
We’ve seen that plans change once the battle is enjoined. One key to being successful when plans change is to clearly communicate to your team the “why” behind what you’re doing. It’s similar to the “commander’s intent” or mission statement that Marcus mentioned today. When people understand why they are doing something and what they’re trying to accomplish, having that information helps them problem solve and execute when their original plans no longer apply. Our company conducted an extensive engagement survey two years ago and this message came out loud and clear from employees. They wanted to feel more engaged by understanding why they were being asked to do things a certain way. They also feel more empowered to make independent decisions when they know the intent opposed to more robotically following step-by-step plans.
This discussion about planning systems reminds me of Mintzberg’s classic HBR article from 1990: The Manager’s Job: Folklore and Fact
You know what, I don’t think I’ve read that. Can you share with the rest of us?
Here it is, https://hbr.org/1990/03/the-managers-job-folklore-and-fact from the Mar-Apr 1990 issue. Mintzberg outlined the myths about a manager’s job and the corresponding facts challenging those myths. An engaging article.
“You don’t need to summarize. Just throw the data.” – and how to influence a change in the culture for that? The problem is that generally, the top management expectation is to receive all information summarized and analyzed. How do you see this?
Thank you! And please only Vitor 😉
I hope i answered satisfactorily! No question, it is a journey – we are in love with EXECUTIVE SUMMARIES!
Just having fun with words here…squash emergence + engage urgency = emergency… or maybe emergencies demand that we respond to what’s emerging as it emerges.Emergencies snag best laid plans.
How do we get the right balance between detailed and high level?
Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World – by Stanley McChrystal. Has anyone read it already?
Hi everyone! We’re almost ready to get started – but first, here is an article that Marcus will be referring to during the Live Truth Event: https://www.focus-economics.com/blog/why-is-productivity-growth-so-low-23-economic-experts-weigh-in
Looking forward to the Truth #2. I agree with some other Freethinkers here, the Plan should never be viewed as a concrete/fixed roadmap to success. The “plan” should outline the purpose and vision, that kick starts the team or organization into action towards that vision, with the understanding that you monitor and adapt to conditions as you go. Helps to continuously challenge your initial assumptions as yes, the real world will throw curveballs at every step.
I have always struggled with planning details. I envied people who could map out every single aspect of a task at hand. I always felt like I was missing a key component because no matter how hard I tried, I was never going to be a master planner and stick exactly to my plan – and this attribute seemed to be sought after in all of my previous companies. This lie is validating to me!
I love the discussion around #2. So much time is being spent on planning and trying to accommodate for ALL variables that execution and action aren’t happening. With more employees juggling multiple priorities and a shortage in labor I’m curious how we enact change to move away from “perfection planning” to execution and adaptability/agility as a mindset across the organization.
Having worked for organizations that put a lot of emphasis on planning and also orgs that didn’t seem to plan and instead have reacted and tried to adjust to the latest problem, I’d say that both extremes could be dangerous — the environment matters though and it will dictate what’s preferred. Is there a preferred way to discern areas/fields where it makes sense to allocate resources and invest in a more detailed plan with the expectation it will be, within a reason, followed? Most of our environments are not predictable anymore so maybe there’s a new approach that has been developed? how about – if you fail to plan, you plan to fail? I’ m curious to learn more.
The best plan is the one that gets the desired results, and may look very different from what was committed to the project to begin with. My company has a forward vision of acquisition. Once in transition of the new company, the stakeholder have a meeting facilitated by the PMO. The meeting can look very different from week to week based on the things we didn’t know, we didn’t know going into the project. The two main things that remain are flexibility and agility.
I confess, I’m a big “planner” but I don’t look at it as a roadmap so much as a default. If nothing changes, this is the direction we’re going. If something changes, we are deviating — but without a plan, we don’t know from WHAT we’re deviating, and I think that can be important in order to assess and evaluate our choices. The road less traveled has to be compared to something to see its relative value, or else it’s just any old road.
It has been said, `you don’t know what you don’t know`. Plans are based on what we know… preparation for what we don’t know is another matter. So many books seem to believe that the team that wins is the team that goes all in. While that may be true, is the reverse true… do all teams that go all in on plans always win? Of course not.
I spent 21 years in the US Army Reserve and National Guard. As officers we practiced writing many plans in great detail. Given time, we would plan for various contingencies and people would spend hours and days working through all the details. However, given what we know about plans, and that conditions and constraints change, I always felt it was best to spend time in carefully articulating what we called the “Commanders Intent” or the “Vision Statement” for a civilian equivalent. The commander’s intent is the most important part of the “plan”. It is the vision of the end state that drives actions when conditions on the ground change.
A plan is based on information that we know today and information that we assume will be true in the future. The commander’s intent, or vision, is what allows a team to still accomplish the mission when the conditions change. So it is not necessarily the best plan, but the best articulated vision that matters. Does EVERYONE know and understand the vision so that they can accomplish the commander’s intent? An organization where everyone knows the commander’s intent will perform better than an organization that is following a plan as too many people will use the black and white of the “plan” as an excuse to underperform. How to accomplish this from a leadership standpoint: ALWAYS preach your purpose. Alignment is critical, the tactics of how you get from point A to point B can change.
Totally agree with you. Also, reminds me of Dwight Eisenhower’s saying that “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Once the first shots are fired, in war and business, you can forget about elaborate plans, but you will be successful if you know the Commanders Intent. Thanks for sharing.
Planning is an important part of any organization or team. The trick is doing the right planning. Don’t spend too much time on specificity, it’s just a waste. Include flexibility to account for changes. And above all, be prepared to abandon the plan when needed. Just as important as planning is the ability to improvise when the plan fails.
Having introduced agile development principles to many teams and organizations, I’ve often encountered attitudes and culture that have trouble with the concept of adapting to changing circumstances. They are happy to talk about developing software in sprints and adjusting the scope of the Minimum Viable Product, but struggle with accepting that we shouldn’t try to create exact work plans for a sprint that is three months away. In a sense, the best plan is accepting that we cannot create the best plan during the sales process or kick-off meeting — and the willingness to admit to mistakes early, then adapt to compensate.
Love the comment Stacey. I’m reminded of Virginia Satir’s comment that “People prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty.” So often I’ve seen the ‘necessity’ of planning as an attempt to convince ourselves that we are managing risk out of the action proposed. Helping leaders embrace the discomfort of uncertainty and to perpetually exist in that space appears to be the key challenge. To pinch from Susan Jeffers, ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’.
No plan survives the first ‘contact with the enemy’. If in truth, plans are about fixing issues in the past (supply chain hiccups), or in the best of times, paving a way to achieve a goal in the future… what does that leave us for for those things we encounter in real time.. in the real world? Agile strike teams? In perpetual short planning and execution? Can’t wait to hear your truth 🙂
As someone who is just three months in to a brand new role at a new organization, I’ve been struggling with “planning paralysis.” This is exactly the mindset shift I need to start thinking about future accomplishments and problem-solving, rather than holding myself back in the planning stage. Whew!
Looking forward to the truth! Currently struggling with how do we teach our most senior leaders to be agile. Can you teach agility and adaptability? We are considering looking to the world of comedy improv for answers….
Love this!! I cannot wait for the truth to be told. This reminds me of a few things; being flexible… in my military days I believe it was called “Sempre Gumby!” Also reminds me of being open to different possibilities, not married to one particular idea….. or when you’re resistant to change, you’re now prepared for a reality that no longer exists.
This ‘lie’ reminds me of a quote from Colin Powell that goes something like ‘don’t have your ego so close to your position that when your position goes your ego goes with it.’ I see too many leaders afraid to adjust and modify their plans because they feel too personally invested in its development and that to adjust would appear to be less than perfect. I believe helping leaders become comfortable with uncertainly is key in this area.
All meetings should be about what changed today and how does that effect the end goal
The best plan is fluid. It’s not developed and shelved. It’s outlined and reviewed and tweaked and tweaked and reviewed.
It reminds me of university… plan plan plan with all the theory… but then… how and where is the application? Take action, speak less.
Good morning Leaders! This second lie reminded me of the hype around Y2K. I remember how everyone thought that 1999 – 2000 was going to be a disaster and how all of the IT people around the world were working towards making sure all the computers stayed up and running. After the New Year celebrations, and a lot of people working towards making sure that everything worked, I remember the CEO asking if we really needed to do all of that work or if it was just hype? I of course reminded him that it was about the planning and execution that so many people had worked towards to make it uneventful!