Planning Makes Perfect

When was the last time you developed a plan? Did you implement your plan? And here’s the million dollar question: Did you implement your plan successfully? If implementation was successful, then it is very likely that you spent at least half your time in the planning process before you started with implementation. The importance of planning cannot be overemphasized, but in western cultures, the tendency is to follow a cycle of “plan,do, re-plan, re-do, re-plan, re-do,” until the plan and implementation are completed.This is the wrong way to plan and implement, since the end result can take
twice as long and cost twice as much as necessary.

Instead, follow the Japanese Management Paradigm process where planning is done completely and right the first time before implementation commences (i.e., “plan, plan, plan, plan, plan, do”). There are many advantages in doing it this way, not the least of which is both time and cost savings. Other advantages include:

  • Verified and correct guidelines and goals that can be used for future decisions.
  • Proactive goal setting including risk contingency plans.
  • Established baselines that can be used for performance measurement of the implemented solution.
  • Correct allocation of time and resources to the solution.

It is human nature to want to get “doing” as soon as possible; but the devil is in the  details. If you do not devote enough time to the details, those overlooked details may very well be your plan’s undoing during implementation. Here are guidelines to help you develop a solid plan before moving to implementation (these guidelines are how to plan for a Lean project, but can easily be adapted to any project in your organization):

  1. Form a steering committee of stakeholders to guide your project.
  2. With the steering committee, identify the current situation (problem to be addressed) in your organization.
  3. With the steering committee, identify the future state (aim for realistic and achievable improvements, but it doesn’t hurt to aim for “utopia” in the long term).
  4. With the steering committee, identify three to five high level objectives to be achieved in the first year (working toward future state).
  5. With the steering committee, identify the projects that align with the high level objectives (see item 4 above).
  6. With the steering committee, develop a risk management plan for each of the projects.
  7. With the steering committee, develop a communications plan for each of the projects.
  8. With the steering committee, develop an implementation plan for projects to be implemented in the first year.
  9. Commence implementation.

Notice that planning is not a “solo” act. The steering committee must be involved and included during the entire planning process. For greater effectiveness and efficiency during the project, I suggest that the committee be no larger than ten members (seven-to-ten is ideal).

And, finally, remember that during any new initiative (and starting right away with the concept), communication is extremely important. You will need to repeat your message(s) at least seven times before your audience understands what it is that you’re talking about. People will rather put up with an existing problem than accept a solution they don’t understand. Communicate, communicate, communicate. By doing so, you will build buy-in and momentum for both your plan and its successful implementation.

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