This post was originally published for Coach Andrea's blog in 2015. But people still avoid THAT, so here goes...
If you hang around this blog, chances are you’re a leader in your field, probably with a pronounced entrepreneurial streak. Therefore, your work in the world must require a fair amount of Planning.
I'm willing to bet you're good at setting goals and making big-picture roadmaps. You often get incredible amounts of work done in a single day. However... Visionaries like you tend to neglect the mid-term planning. And enjoy the side effects of overwhelm towards the deadline, stress-induced mistakes, and unnecessary strain on you and your team.
We've talked before why people hate planning.
With that in mind, how do you turn a Grand Plan into a clear step-by-step map, rather than a set of great goals, shining out of the weeds of urgent to-dos? And how do you make make mid-term planning an organic part of your business culture?
Step one: Awareness.
Now that we’ve pinpointed the reasons people avoid mid-term planning, it will be easier to recognize these behavior patterns, and therefore easier to change them. Go beyond inspiring speeches, and break down a grand goal into weekly tasks. Know that a fear of failure is unavoidable, and accept it as part of a healthy process. Better to face it ahead of time and prepare for a number of possible scenarios, than discover your fears come true because you avoided basic planning. Yes, it will be boring and overwhelming at times, but you’ll be saving yourself from much greater overwhelm in the very near future.
Step two: Review mid-term plans on a regular basis.
You may think this part is obvious, but... This is where many leaders drop the ball, because mid-term planning can be sobering, or boring, or overwhelming, or all of the above.
There are two main benefits to a regular review: the obvious one of tracking progress and identifying problems early, and the less obvious one of reducing noise. Teams regard a weekly review as a natural opportunity for communication, the time and place to talk about a project. This way, everything but the most urgent issues would be discussed during the review, instead of randomly distracting the leader.
Go ahead and put a recurring planning session on the calendar.
Step three: Make it enjoyable.
Otherwise, it will be too easy to just skip it in favor of something urgent or shiny. Here is one of the most effective ways I know: vividly envision the outcome for every mid-size task. It takes surprisingly little time. Sometimes no more than a fraction of a second. The payoff is huge – you now have a clearly defined task and you have enjoyed the process. Next time you have a detailed plan to make there will be far less resistance. You may even find yourself looking forward to the planning session.
A habit of mid-term planning increases the chances of Big Goal accomplishment by orders of magnitude. To ensure this habit takes root, make it enjoyable for everyone by teaching your team to vividly imagine mid-term outcomes.
“Vividly imagine” equals “clearly define”. You will have a map of well-defined tasks, and everyone will have enjoyed the process. Enjoyable stuff is much more likely to be done consistently, and on a regular basis, which is absolutely crucial to make your planning effective.
YOUR CALL TO ACTION
Schedule a mid-term planning session and put in on your calendar! Tell us how adding these sessions to your planning has helped your plans turn into reality. Share below.