Saturday, February 20, 2016
Plan, do and review - or not
When we want to do something big, we plan, do and review.
The balance and order of those three activities is the subject of much debate in management literature. According to them, we're doing the wrong thing at the wrong time because we planned too much or too little or the wrong things with the wrong information. And they're right.
That's life in the world, right now. There is no one right way to act, there is no blueprint for success. Conditions shift so fast that today's Best Practice is yesterday's leech cure, and as soon as you're sure the leeches are not going to cure you, a new way to use them comes into style. Chasing the right way, or trying to avoid the wrong ways, can drive you to insanity and, worse, waste your precious time.
The secret every advice-giver knows is this: if what you're doing isn't working, just do something else for awhile and see what happens.
If you're planning everthing to death and failing to act, switch the order:
do, review, plan.
If you're wasting a lot of effort and finding out major issues too late, switch the order:
review, plan, do
If you're in unknown waters and need to experiment, throw caution to the winds: do, review, do, review, do, review, plan (as little as possible).
If you're working in fairly common or known project areas, stick to the tried-and-true order: plan, do, review.
Try it for awhile, and if it isn't working, change it.
But beware: working and not working are often hard to distinguish. Often things get harder, more unpleasant and messier before they get better. Breaking the old to create space for the new. Uncomfortable doesn't mean it's not working. Lack of immediate success doesn't mean it's not working. So stick to what your gut told you was the order to take, until your gut tells you to try something else. And then, follow your gut on that. And see what happens.
There, I just saved you $40k and/or the reading of a dozen Management books.
By the way, we know that a team with bad process and poor planning can still execute when there is high trust. That is, people can come through even when the structures fail, working together with good will. On the other hand, all the good process in the world can't make up for lack of trust on a team - the structures will fail in unexpected and insidious ways. Given that, trust might be a good place to invest next.