‘Discipline yourself and others won’t need to.’
– Coach John Wooden
Everybody needs a plan! Coaches have a game plan. Pilots have a flight plan, investors have an investment plan, architects create a building plan, and the list goes on. Nothing of great substance happens without a plan. Of course, plans are not worth the paper they are written on if they don’t elicit action.
Losers plan, plan, and plan some more. Winners Plan for success, Do something, Check the results, Act again to make the plan better, and then repeat the whole cycle.
The first time I came across this concept when I was learning Statistical Process Control (SPC) as a young engineer with the Ford Motor Company. At the time, Ford was embracing the teachings of Edward Deming and instructing every employee on the fundamentals of statistical measure and process improvement. We quickly implemented statistical analysis on key processes to compare the actual process performance with the planned performance. Using this technique, we quickly discovered any deviation from the plan and took the necessary steps to understand the problem, correct it, and improve the process. This rapid plan, do, check feedback struck me intensely. I realized if this could work so effectively at a small level, surely it could work on a big level.
In subsequent companies, I used this concept at a strategic level. I would ensure a strategic plan was in place, execute the plan with the right level of detail, commitment, and infrastructure to do a great job, measure our results and then modify accordingly. Over time, this simple cycle became embedded into the culture until it became a habit. If it works for some of the biggest, most profitable companies in the world, then it can work for you.
When planning for a project, do the following:
Plan: Make a clear, concise and action-oriented plan of what you intend to achieve including specific goals, measures, and resources and steps necessary to obtain success.
Do: Execute the plan immediately, ensuring you have the right resources in place, coordination of activity, incentives, alignment, and accountability. Focus and play to win.
Check: Measure the results of your action in a clear, accurate and timely manner, and communicate those results with all who need to know.
Act: Determine how your results vary from the plan, and then take the action necessary to make improvements, based on this deviation.
This simple Plan-Do-Check-Act routine can be applied to all types of organizations, and even at a personal level, in order to focus actions and improve results.