One of the promises that planning fulfills is making the seemingly impossible become possible. When confronted with a challenging goal, if a team has had disappointments in past attempts to reach such heights, they may go into apathy at the prospect of tackling the challenge. It is akin to staring at the summit from the base and considering it an impossible challenge. But, if you focus on the first ledge only, it seems less formidable. And as you reach each succeeding ledge, facing the next one seems more doable.
Such is often the feedback from participants in both our project planning (Dynamic Planning®) and strategic planning (Vision Navigation®) sessions. Comments often allude to “you made the impossible seem doable” and the like.
Having done follow-up work with planning clients over 20+ years, we have seen patterns that both accelerate and slow progress toward project targets. We train teams to hold regular accountability sessions or meetings to discuss progress and problems on projects. What we have noticed of late in these meetings, however, is that teams tend to focus in on the planned outcomes due in a given quarter and lose sight of whether the year-end target is still attainable. This can lead to a surprise if, at the end of the year, all the outcomes have been achieved, but the target has not. Why is this so?
Our take is that it is rare indeed when a team can anticipate during planning all the challenges they will face in their climb to the summit, i.e., the year end target. You can’t see those challenges until you are well up the mountain. After all, it is a mountain you have never previously climbed. While we urge teams to revise their plans throughout the year to assure that they are accurate given new conditions and developments, we have not charged them specifically to regularly question whether the outcomes and schedule are still leading to the summit by the prescribed date.
So, we are now designing a course correction to not only have teams focus at each accountability session on the outcomes due, but also on whether the target and scheduled completion date for the project is still accurate. What do we mean by accurate? Is the target you defined in the beginning still a good description of what you want to achieve or has that changed? Is it overstated or is it understated, i.e., can you reach even higher? Is it still reasonable to promise completion by the plan end date?
For your team, think of it as having to wear bi-focals, you need clear near vision, but also good distance vision.
Let us know what your experience is with trying this new approach. Have you found that nearsightedness or farsightedness left your plan an inaccurate picture mid-year? We would love to hear from you.