As the old adage goes, preparation is only half the battle. Planning tools like the Eisenhower Matrix (discussed in an earlier blog post) can certainly be used to resolve conflicting priorities when developing your plan, but a successful plan also entails regular evaluation.
In terms of our health, we often schedule appointments when we feel under the weather. Preventative care, however, (much like management development training), works at the opposite end of the wellness spectrum. It requires initiative. By the same logic, we can check the health of our own plans before things get awry.
To ensure you’re planning like you mean it, consider putting into action a process that measures progress along the way. Implementation and evaluation go hand in hand, so how healthy is your plan? Find out with these four questions:
Are my goals (still) valid and attainable?
Have you ever made a New Year’s resolution that dissolved in less than a month? Don’t worry—we’ve all been there. The main reason people fail to meet their goals is because of wishful thinking that forgoes planning with regular assessment. Since goals are dependent on values as individuals, it's important to acknowledge whether what you've planned is attainable and aligned to the bigger picture. A closer look at personal (and even company) values can determine whether your plan for achieving your goal is out of alignment with your larger mission. Adjust your goals and your plan, accordingly, to match what takes priority now for planned success in the future.
What's my plan's Status In Regards to My goal?
Without clear project milestones, it’s difficult to measure what’s actually being completed. Establishing milestones as indicators of progress communicates efficiency and transparency among your team members. Planning for productivity over smaller increments of time can ensure your goal is accomplished by whatever deadline you set. As we've shared in an earlier blog post, ensure your plan is formulated around tangible results at each step along the way. Quantifiable data are some of the best metrics for checking on the status of your plan. You can't hit a target you're not aiming for, right?
What’s changed since my plan was set in motion?
Not to be confused with reaching milestones, evolving circumstances beyond our control might include unforeseen events like varying political interests, natural disasters, or industry trends that can affect your company’s market and finances. These changes can also be affected by processes that take priority over what you’re planning to do. Ultimately, periodically checking on the health of your plan will save you time and energy when there’s a need to course-correct. When in doubt, plan for contingency.
What needs to be changed in order to continue?
Every plan should completed by meeting certain objectives but be flexible enough to adapt should the need arise. The closer you are to your processes, the closer you are to the root of your organization. Often times, we become distanced from this center as we hire more and more employees. By returning to the source, however, you’re able to identify finer details, like performance levels or workflows, or notice any obstructions that may interfere with your plans. Proximity to processes is key to planning since much of what you plan for in the future depends on what is currently taking place in the present.
Professional planners are experts in innovation because they can operate effectively in both the present and the future. They work a balanced line between close engagement with the day-to-day operations and regular evaluation. Your goals and values might not change, but your plan should adopt the healthy flexibility needed to make sure you’re moving in the right direction.