New opportunities are exciting. It’s easy to want to jump the gun and follow the shiny objects, but when you jump in without a plan, your odds of hitting the target are slim.
Ready, aim, fire. The saying is in that particular order for a reason. When you fire first, sometimes you hit the target and sometimes a lot of bullets are wasted. Meanwhile, the competition is watching and learning vicariously through you. They get to conserve their own resources until they are ready. Wouldn’t you rather set yourself up for success?
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, says there is no shortcut to achieving success. He believes you need to turn the flywheel one click at a time. If you want to achieve something faster, you turn the flywheel faster.
The process starts with Think. Too often people run off with the first inkling of a great idea. They fire before they aim, inadvertently educating their competition on the mistakes they made.
Remember when Jawbone launched the UP band 11 years ago? It was the first of its kind and ignited the wearables industry. However, after launching the product, the complaints started rolling in as many UP bands stopped working within weeks of launching. To Jawbone’s credit, they took fast and decisive action, initiating a major recall and issuing full refunds to all of its customers. It took the company a whole year to re-release the product, and version two still had issues. (I know because I went through four of them!) During this time, Fitbit and Nike’s Fuel Band hit the market and gained first mover advantage.
Developing ideas into growth strategies takes time. Like a fine wine, ideas need to breathe. It’s difficult to take time to do this, but if you develop a regular Think session to work on your ideas, you will make better decisions on what opportunities or ideas to execute on and how to execute them. Once you have something, work on the assumptions that you are depending on to make your product or idea work. Then test and validate these assumptions as you think through your product.
Many people think their plan is set once they have properly documented their idea, but the real work has just begun. Planning is how you get your idea from conception to execution.
Develop your plan of attack and discuss with your team how to actually execute on these great ideas or growth strategies. Who is going to do what, when and with what resources? To best utilize your resources, get into a habit of planning in 13-week cycles, so everyone is clear on what they need to accomplish each quarter. With each quarter, you will learn and improve as a team. The goal is to get everyone aligned so that every team member knows what they are accountable for accomplishing and how his or her role fits into the overall goal of the company. It sounds simple, but underplanning is often the reason for projects unraveling.
Nothing happens until you Do the work.
Every week you need to stay on top of your execution. Start the week off by making sure your team knows what the priorities are for that week. Be clear on what you will actually accomplish—taking smaller bites will help make the project feel more manageable. Each week consider how you are moving the company’s quarterly plan forward and if you are on track to achieve your goals.
Once you start seeing a goal get off-track even a little, pause and think about what execution adjustments you need to make. Use your weekly meetings to brainstorm ideas with your team to get back on track.
To boil it all down, Think will help you to generate and develop your ideas, Plan will help you to work with your team to establish clear steps to execute your strategies and work more efficiently and Do will help you to measure and review your progress each week to keep you on track toward achieving your goals.
So, instead of firing before you aim or getting surpassed by the competition, next time you go to fire, stop and Think-Plan-Do.
This article was published in August 2015 and has been updated. Photo by @lithiumphoto/Twenty20
Patrick Thean is the co-founder and CEO of Rhythm Systems and author of Rhythm: How To Achieve Breakthrough Execution and Accelerate Growth. A serial entrepreneur and best-selling author, Patrick is a thought leader in strategic business execution. In 2006, along with co-founder Cindy Praeger, Patrick founded Rhythm Systems based on the desire to help businesses accelerate their growth by focusing on great execution and as the industry’s only provider of a complete, cloud-based strategy execution software platform that facilitates airtight execution and measurability for mid-market CEOs.