How to stick with a Plan

I’ll get right to the point on this one; we create great plans and don’t execute them. We may start to execute; a few steps here and there. Then we hit a roadblock; doesn’t even have to be a large one; our plan gets delayed, then shelved, then dusty.  Here’s what’s probably wrong and some thoughts as to how to get the wheel moving again:

1)      You never really had “buy in” from the get go and you probably knew it. If people can’t envision what success looks like, for themselves and the team, you need to either scrap the plan or do a better job of creating that vision.

  1. Stop with the emails, pick up the phone or walk down the hall and revisit the plan. You are going for a renewed commitment.
  2. They need to accept and envision the goal, understand their part in making it happen and be willing to be accountable for their piece of it. 

2)      Goals are too lofty.

  1. Remember in school if you got a “C” (or worse!) on your report card and your parents insisted on moving that to an “A”? That was a tough goal; nothing in between. So you feel kind of like a failure with a “B”. Same is true with plans.
  2. Set goals that encourage continued forward movement, even if slowly.  

3)      Too complex: “Wait, Haley told me that Ryan was supposed to handle the first phase of this, then I was going to….”

  1. Keep the action steps clear and accountability transparent.
  2. If you have to invest in a project management system, do it. There are plenty of open source systems out there; go to and look for free downloads.

4)      Hard to measure progress.

  1. Know where you are today. Even if it’s an estimate. Get numbers from everyone involved. Then decide what numbers you want to hit.  
  2. I like to ask people “What will success look like?” which usually results in some terrific numbers. Then create some milestones and celebrate when they are met.

5)      No one is in charge of the plan.

  1. You need a leader; doesn’t have to be the president, but someone endowed with the power to prod, cajole and go over people’s heads if necessary.
  2. During the kick off meeting, make sure the president (or senior manager) verbally passes the baton to this individual. Make it crystal clear.
  3. Make sure this individual has the right stuff to pull all the strings together.  Don’t dump this job on a newbie or lowly clerical worker; they’ll get trampled!

 What can you add? It’s easier to create a plan than it is to follow one. You need to put it first on your daily list and decide what actions you’ll take TODAY to move the plan along. If the goals are right, the steps are right and you have a person leading the charge who is enabled and supported, you have a great chance of reaching those goals.

If this article was helpful, let me know and please pass it along!



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  1. #1 by Liz Lavaveshkul on August 30, 2012 - 10:16 am

    Great points and great advice, Susan. There are two more possible roadblocks a person might need to address, and they’re on the opposite end of the spectrum:

    1) You’re afraid of failure. For example, you’d rather hear people say, “You’re so good, you should be on American Idol” than try out and have a screener or judge reject you. Worse, you could end up on the “reject show,” which showcases the really bad, but delusional singers.

    2) You’re afraid of success. I remember an old TV Western, where people were stranded in the middle of the desert. They banded together to head towards the mountain, their salvation from hunger and thirst and the scorching heat and bareness of the desert. They dreamed of fresh mountain streams, shady trees, and nourishing fruits on the mountain. But as they got closer to their goal, they worried about what they’d do next. What if the conditions on the mountain were hostile? Where was the nearest town? How could they reach civilization? How long would they be there?

  2. #2 by susansaldibar on August 30, 2012 - 3:50 pm

    Liz excellent observations! People don’t often think about “fear of success” but it’s alive and well in all of us. The idea of “what next?” can create a fear to reach a goal, which keeps so many people locked in place with a job they’d rather not have, or from moving forward to do something they really want to do. Thanks for the post.

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