If not Now, then When?
Fail to plan, Plan to fail is a phrase I have read from many sources. Dwight Eisenhower once said that Plans are useless, but planning is essential. I tend to agree with him also because even our best plans are always going to change, but this does not negate the need to ever plan, especially for contingencies.
Marshall Goldsmith recently wrote an article talking about why were are sometimes not as good at executing our plans as we might be. I can point to many instances in my life when I had the best plan in place, swimming about in my mind, just waiting for someone to pull the trigger. The challenge is that execution is just as important as planning and in some cases it is more important.
Why don't we follow through on the plans we make? I think there are several reasons and I'll list a few of them below:
- Planning can be easier because we only need to think about what to do. Thinking is hard, but it is not nearly as hard as executing.
- Planning is glamorous because none of the hard work of trying and failing has yet been done. How many times have you seen someone try to execute a plan only to have it stopped quickly by some unexpected obstacle or simply by just having the right plan at the wrong time?
- Execution requires effort and follow-up and perseverance. I often think back to Edison and the light bulb. It took over 1000 failures before Edison got the bulb just right. He had the perseverance to stick with it, but how many times do others just give up when presented with an obstacle or two. Planning is essential, but self management and self motivation are just as important in the execution phase. Self management and self motivation involve the following:
- Know the steps to execute and do them in the order that was planned.
- When failure or obstacles occur, take a step back and reflect on why, then try again with a change or possibly even with the same plan.
- Gain insight and feedback from others on your plans. Having multiple sets of eyes on a plan will help you learn things you may never see for yourself.
- Don't be quick to give up. Many of the best plans take a long time to execute successfully and you will learn many things from failure if you just give yourself the chance to fail.
- Be sure you have the right motivation for your plans. Some plans will never work if your heart is not behind the strategy and you have not totally bought into the process. You have to be personally invested to execute effectively.
The time is always now, but it will be never if you fail to execute.
Great plans are always looking for strong leaders and implementers. Everyone wants to be the planner, the visionary, but few want to be the implementer, the person in the trenches making things happen and getting things across the finish line.
When you plan be sure to do a self-check to ensure that you are invested personally in your goals. If you are not, then your plans will never be fully implemented, if at all.
If you have bought in to your plans, then good things will happen when you execute.