Category Archives: Planning Skills

Time Span of Intention

This week, I shared a planning document (you can download it below), with the headline, “What is your intention?”

Elliott closed his last book with this notion of intention, in a drawing he described as, the most important illustration of his book, the Axis of Intention.

Planning is simply the documentation of your intention.

We have two dimensions of time, the past and the future, separated by the nanosecond of the present. Events that occur are measurable by a stopwatch. The melting point (time to melt) of a metal at a given temperature is predictable, can be scientifically documented. It is known, concrete, tangible.

In life, the Axis of Achievement (the past) is overlaid by the Axis of Intention (the future). What is your intention? What is the time span of your intention?

I get pushback on planning.

  • We don’t have time.
  • Actual results never meet the plan.
  • We might be held accountable for what we said.

We don’t have time to plan. Then what is the time span of your intention, that you don’t have time to consider your intention?
Actual results never meet the plan. Of course not, but actual results are shaped by the axis of your intention.
We might be held accountable for what we said. Accountability is output. Accountability is the reconciliation between these two dimensions of time –
The past, axis of achievement.
The future, axis of intention.

The linchpin is this understanding of time span. What is the time span of your intention? That is what will shape your world. -Tom

You can download the planning document here. 2017 Planning Template

Habits and Planning Effectiveness

Many of you asked to receive a copy of my planning template for this year. It is a simple template based on a gap analysis.

  • Where would you like to go?
  • Where are you now?
  • What’s the gap in between? (Resources, milestones and obstacles)

I am working with several people preparing their plans for management team meetings, peer executive groups and 1-1 meetings, so I get to see what people actually put to paper.

One element strikes me as critical, the role of habits.

It is one thing to work on each goal as a project, with a discrete start and finish, very results oriented. But the real power in your ability to create lasting impact over time is in the creation of a habit. A habit is a grooved, routine behavior, often below consciousness that continuously moves us toward the goal.

All behavior is goal oriented. We think we create our own success. We do not. We only create our own habits, and it is our habits that determine our success. -Tom

You should be able to download the planning template here. 2017 Planning Template

What Are Your Intentions? – 2017 Planning Guide

It’s 2017. What are your intentions?

Benefits to planning –

  • Gain agreement from stakeholders on what is necessary to be achieved.
  • Gain agreement on reality. No plan survives its train-wreck with reality.
  • Gain agreement on how we will know. Really, how will we know? What are the measurements, key performance indicators.

Blocks to planning –

  • We don’t have time.
  • Actual results never meet the plan.
  • We might be held accountable for what we said.

You decide.-Tom

If you would like some help, you can download the planning template here. 2017 Planning Template

Biggest Variable in Workforce Planning

“What things do you need to pay attention to that will have an impact one year from now?” I asked.

“This company is pretty stable in what it does,” Melanie replied. “We may replace a machine or our volume might go up or down. But what is really volatile, is the people. You never know what is going to happen with the people.” Melanie’s mind began to race like she had just discovered uranium. “The biggest change is always the people. And even if the people don’t change, the people change. It’s still the same people, but, they are not the same people.”

Melanie’s discovery of uranium was shifting to panic. This new world that opened up just a few seconds ago, suddenly got very scary.

“It’s not just the people that change,” I smiled. “It’s the relationships. Organizational structure is the working relationships between our team members.”

“So, as a manager, I have to see the way things are now, and think about the impact a year from now?”

“Yes,” I nodded. -Tom

The Value of One Year into the Future

“Why is it important for a Manager to think one year into the future?” I asked.

Melanie had finally opened her mind to discovery. “If I had been thinking out a year, I could have had conversations with my supervisors a long time before they quit. I would have known what changes to make to keep them challenged. I didn’t think they would be interested in learning new things and stepping into more difficult projects.”

“So, if I asked you, as a Manager, to take a single piece of paper and chart out your team members, think about their capabilities and interests, and develop a one year plan for each one, could you do it?”

“Well, yes, but I would probably have to talk to each person, to make sure I was on target, it’s going to take some time,” Melanie replied.

“So, what do you have to do that is more important?” -Tom

Difference Between Preparation and Planning?

“Did you ask about preparation?” I asked.

“Preparation? You mean planning? I asked questions about planning,” Erin replied. “And that’s why I am concerned. The person we hired had created a number of plans. Project plans, operational plans, personnel plans. But now, in the role, this person is failing.”

“Preparation is different from planning,” I suggested. “We can plan til the cows come home, but if we are not prepared, life will take us sideways. Did you ask about preparation?”

“I am not sure what you mean,” Erin was curious.

“There are some things we can plan for, but many things that are out of our control. We cannot plan for those things out of our control, we can only prepare. Some people can face the same challenge ten times, but on the eleventh time, are still not prepared. Others can face a brand new challenge, one they could not have planned for, yet they can handle the uncertainty, because they are prepared. Did you ask about preparation?”

What Has Changed Around You?

Andrew was still upset. The contract was lost and there was nothing he could do about it. He had lost his appeal with the purchasing agent, the procurement manager and the director of operations.

“We did everything by the book,” he said. “This is the way we have earned all of our major contracts. Our reputation is stellar. I can’t believe this is happening.”

“You got sucker-punched,” I observed.

“What?” Andrew replied.

“Sucker-punched,” I repeated. “We often think that our future success lies in the fact that we had one small string of successes in the past. We think that the curve in front of us continues upward without hesitation. We do not realize that, as we continue to do things the way we have always done, the world subtly changes. The nuances of the deal creep up, new players enter the game without detection, and suddenly we are on our ass.” Andrew’s face showed no emotion on the outside, but his eyes betrayed a growing realization.

“There is good news, though,” I continued. “This is not a game. This is life. In a game, there are few second chances. The final period has an ending, even overtime is sudden death.

“In life, in business, there are lots of second chances and the final period can be extended. But only if you stop thinking about your past success and start thinking about what has changed around you.”

2016 Planning Template

It’s that time of year. Lingering days of 2015 will fade into the holidays AND 2016 will come rushing in. Are you ready? In my groups, we have an early January session to talk about planning and goals. To help organize thoughts, we distribute our annual planning document. It is a Word.doc, so it expands as you type into it. If you would like a copy, just give me a shout at Ask Tom?

The Futility of Planning

“Planning in this day and age is futile,” Reggie complained. “The world changes so fast in these times, with technology, what is the point of thinking five years into the future?”

“Indeed,” I replied. “Do you think technology will be different five years from now?”

“Absolutely. So what’s the point thinking about decisions five years from now?” Reggie continued his protest.

“So, you think a decision made today might be wrong, five years from now?”

“Of course. Things change.”

“What kind of things?” I prompted.

“Technology drives all kinds of change, in the way we communicate, the speed of information, the precision of measurement. It changes our methods, our systems, our reach, our scope.”

“So, if we don’t think about those things in the future, we might make the wrong decision today?”

Reggie stopped. His head turned around. “You’re right. Planning is not about making a decision five years from now. Planning is about making a decision today.”

The Connection Between Time Span and Outcomes

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
Thank you for your presentation to our group. I enjoyed it very much. It strikes me that while I like the concept of time span, generally, the concept of time is relative and it’s really about being able to see down the road of potential outcomes regardless of the time-frame.

Response:
Your thinking is on the right track and you have made the connection between time span (time-frame) and potential outcomes. Let’s take it a bit further.

In a short time span project, there may be several outcomes, but the characteristics of those outcomes are concrete and tangible. In a longer time span project, the possible outcomes multiply in number with less defined characteristics.

If an audio-visual contractor bids on a contract for a audio-visual setup, 65 inch hole in the wall, with a project deadline in three months time, what goes in the hole?

  • The technology is certain – plasma, LCD, LED-LCD, OLED, QDLED
  • The display is certain – CRT, flat screen, front projection, rear projection
  • The display surface is certain – reflective surface, flat surface, curved surface
  • The manufacturer is certain – Sony, Mitsubishi, JVC, Samsung, LG, Panasonic

There are a number of possible outcomes.

If an audio-visual contractor bids on a contract for an audio-visual setup, 65 inch hole in the wall, with a project deadline in five years time (a commercial project still in the design phase, hasn’t broken ground), what goes in the hole?

  • What will be the display technology in five years time?
  • What will be the surface technology in five years time, will there even be a surface, holographic?
  • Who will be the manufacturers in five years time?

There are a number of possible outcomes, but the characteristics are more uncertain. There is ambiguity and uncertainty. So, here is the question –

Given the ambiguity and uncertainty in this project, should the audio-visual contractor accept the contract with a deadline in five years time?

Some contractors would pass, saying there is too much uncertainty, no way to say what the project will look like. Some contractors, comfortable with ambiguity and with the internal capability to adapt to emerging technologies would gladly accept the project. What is the difference in the thinking? What is the difference in the organizations?