Plan the Work, Work the Plan

When my father was a boy, he, his three sisters, and his parents would take road trips. Often, the headlights were pointed west as they traveled to explore states on the left side of the Mississippi. I think back to stories he shared with my sister and I about how adept my grandfather was at using maps. My father said that they rarely got lost and that the trips would often become stale because of dry conversation or lack of sights to see. On the occasion that he would do something he wasn’t supposed to do to one of his sisters, his mom made him watch the odometer for a select number of miles. When the mileage mark came and went, then my father was able to re-engage in family conversation.

So how do you emulate my grandfather and make your “trips” uneventful? And by “trips”, I mean projects. And by uneventful, I mean successful.

As Norman Vincent Peale said, “Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan.

So, how do you do that?

Start by setting SMART goals for your projects…and hold yourself accountable. A SMART goal is:

Specific

Measurable

Action-oriented

Realistic

Time-oriented

A great framework for stating your goal is:

I will …(action you will take)…

in order to …(outcome of your goal)…

as measured by …(quantitative value)…

to be completed by …(realistic, specific date)…

Brief example.

Your boss just asked you to implement a new process that could save significant monies. Your SMART goal could read:

I will develop a project charter, garner leadership support, and assemble a diverse team in order to implement a new lean manufacturing process. After implementation, we should expect a 15% reduction in defects in parts per million of widgets as measured by a comparison to the same period last year. This project will be completed by June 30, 2012.

Project management is much more than setting a SMART goal. For more great information about the topic, check out the Project Management Institute or a book from a former professor of mine at Thunderbird, Managing Projects by Karen A. Brown.

As a leader, it is your job to accomplish goals and complete meaningful projects that are beneficial to the organization’s bottom line. By getting senior leadership support, establishing a clear vision, influencing team members to help you, planning the work and working the plan, you will significantly increase your chances of accomplishing your goals and completing your project under budget and ahead of schedule.

Just make sure you don’t have any team members staring at the odometer.