Friday, November 13, 2009

First Time - Part 4: Have a Plan

This may sound like either a blinding flash of the obvious (BFO) or, because of the size of your division and the degree of oversight of your boss, the most ridiculous waste of time anyone has ever put forward. It’s neither.

You need to have a plan. In the military there are all sorts of plans: plans of the day (the daily drill), daily, weekly, monthly and yearly training plans, operational plans, contingency plans, crisis action plans, maintenance plans, preventative maintenance plans, logistics and support plans, etc. There are also standard operating procedures, which really are not much more than the plans when nothing else is planned.

But you are the new guy. The fact is that people are looking for you to do something, tell them something. And what a plan does is give you something to build from. There is a simple way to proceed, without having to create more hours in the week.

Begin with some calendars (there are many ways to do this, but this one has worked for me and others for a long time and it has the advantage of being very simple to start), one page for each month, and run it out for the next 24 months – at least. (You will be regularly extending the calendar forward in time, adding another three months at the beginning of each quarter is an easy way to start).

Mark out on the calendar every significant date for your organization over the next 24 months. Start with the obvious stuff: end of year reports, quarterly reports, monthly reports, counseling and performance appraisals, etc. If a report comes out on the first of the month, when is your department’s input required? And when is your input required? Some simple backtracking will tell you when you need to get basic information together. Now you can tell your people and there will be fewer surprises. Do you have any organizational goals and associated dates? Put them on. In military units there are the obvious deployment dates and the monthly readiness and training reports, as well as various training and exercise dates.

Now, ask some simple questions. Is there any equipment or material that you need to reach those goals? When would you need it? If you need it, when do you need to order it? Is their training associated either with the gear or the goals as a whole? When is it needed? How long does it take? How long does it take to schedule? Spend some time going over these kinds of questions and put them down on the calendar.

You have just completed your first basic long-range plan. Now you can expand on it. Beyond the organization’s goals – the ones you were given – what other goals do you want to achieve? Put them down as well. Engage in the same ‘backtracking’ and identify necessary training and material and equipment associated with those additional goals. Now work out the scheduling conflicts and opportunities.

You now have a good idea of what things you need to do, when, to stay ahead of the routine tasks of the organization. In fact, you just ‘bought’ yourself free time to think about your organization as a whole.

Now for a daily plan. Most organizations have a daily and weekly schedule, and the organization you have just been appointed to lead is probably no different. So, begin with the existing plan. If you have no existing plan, there ought to be a similar division in the organization: ‘steal’ a copy of their daily plan and copy it. If there is no similar division then you will need to make something up –we will address that in a moment.

If you have an existing plan (your division or someone else’s), begin with a sanity check. Is there anything on the daily plan that makes no sense? If so, and assuming it is not required by your boss, delete it. If your boss requires it, take a good look at it. If you think it is there simply from inertia, consider deleting it and see if anybody notices. If they don’t – success! If they do, you can claim ignorance (you just got there) and then you can ask them if they want it as is, or can you offer some changes? Then, change it so that it helps you and your division (have this suggestion in hand before you go see the boss).

Pick at the daily plan so that it satisfies the following: it gets necessary information to you and the rest of the organization - beyond your division; it keeps your people informed; it helps them do their daily job and keep ahead of approaching events and deadlines; it doesn’t interfere with what they are already doing. This will simply be a result of practice, so spend a few minutes on your plan every day until you have something that works and is comfortable.

If you have no plan to copy, begin with the following:
Reports due this week
Reports due next week
Meetings this week
Meetings next week
Training scheduled for this month (who, when, where)
People on Vacation this month
Weekly goals
Monthly goals

Why do this? The real beauty of a plan is that it takes away headaches and allows you time to think about the really important stuff! And that is what you want: more free time to think about and act on what is really important.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home