Tag Archives: mental fitness

The Plan and Its Train Wreck

“Why is planning so important?” I asked.

“Well, if we have a plan, we know what to do,” Susan replied.

“And, if we know what to do, then we will get what we want in terms of the outcome?” I pressed.

“Well, most of the time.”

I shook my head. “Rarely. Planning only works until its train wreck with reality. Most of the time, things turn out the way they turn out, regardless of the plan. So, why is planning so important?”

It was Susan’s turn to shake her head. So, I continued.

“Think about planning as the mental exercise of anticipation.”

Susan’s head shaking became a nod. “Anticipation sounds like what ifs. We don’t know the what ifs in the future, all we can do is guess. What if we guess wrong?”

“So, our planning has to include what if-yes and what if-no,” I said. “And, is there more than one variable in the future?”

“Always more than one variable,” Susan replied.

“And, if we take variable A-yes, variable A-no and variable B-yes, variable B-no, that gives us four quadrants to plan in.”

Susan jumped in. “And if we take short-term and long term slices.” Susan stopped.

ScenarioPlan

“Planning is the mental preparation for making decisions down the road in the face of uncertainty,” she continued. “And the further into the future we plan, the more uncertainty there is. It is not the plan on the piece of paper that matters. It’s the mental fitness, exercised by planning, that makes the difference in the problems that must be solved and the decisions that must be made.”
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For more information on scenario planning, visit Gideon Malherbe.

What Do We Bet On?

As we wait, what are the possibilities? What are the uncertainties? Ambiguities? And what do we bet on?

  • We look for things we hope for.
  • We look for things that drive our optimism.
  • We look for things we like to see.
  • We look for data that supports our wishes.
  • We look for data that confirms our suspicions.
  • We look for data that supports our own bias.

Reality always wins.

Do not be mislead by hope, what we like, our wishes, suspicions and bias. It is too easy to be lead astray. Most managers I work with are optimists. It is a valid way to see the world, AND there are other possibilities.

What is the worst that can possibly happen?
Prepare to accept the worst-case scenario.
Work to improve on the worst outcome which you have mentally agreed to accept.

I suggest these are not mutually exclusive AND we can hold two simultaneous thoughts that appear to contradict. The intersection of worst outcome and the position of optimism may provide the guidance we seek. It will ALWAYS be better than the worst outcome.

Improve on the worst outcome comes from Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.

Habits of Success?

In my last post, A Level of Competence, I ended with an unspoken question.

What habits do you have that support your success? I am curious to hear from you, so post a comment or reply by email. I will collect, manicure and re-post.

Here are two of my habits.

  • Each morning, I fix a cup of coffee, and spend 60-90 minutes writing. This is where the blog comes from, as well as email correspondence with other thought leaders.
  • When I drive an automobile, I do NOT listen to the radio, only podcasts or I simply drive and think.

What are your habits?

Best Measure of Performance

The best measure of performance is performance. – Lee Thayer

Fitness. A team can have all the necessary elements, but if they don’t have fitness, they will not be able to pull off the strategy. My colleagues get that blank stare when I talk physical fitness. The eyes glance from side to side. “He’s not talking about… being fat, is he?”

If the project calls for a ten hour day, can you work it and then go home with enough energy to be with your family? No way, unless you are in shape. Yes, physical fitness, exercise and nutrition.

And mental fitness.

  • Create four alternative solutions to every question, to make sure we include unlikely possibilities.
  • Create an argument for the other side when this side seems so obvious.
  • Pull the team together for fifteen minutes to make sure we “check-in” before we make a major decision.
  • Discipline – use a consistent mental process for problem solving and decision making.
  • Discipline – focus on a single task until it is complete.
  • Discipline – follow-up on due date projects.
  • Discipline – have the difficult conversation when it is easy to avoid the confrontation.

Physical discipline and mental discipline go together, critical for execution. Most companies do a fair job of planning and organizing. But effectiveness is all about execution, physical and mental discipline. I will take a mediocre plan well executed, anytime, over a great plan that is poorly executed. Where does your team stand on the fitness scale?

The Limit of Minimum

Physical strength is built by pushing the limit to the maximum, breaking the micro-strands in muscle. The repair of the micro-strands builds the muscle, makes it stronger.

Mental strength is built by pushing the limit to the maximum. The experience of mental pushing is moving from comfort to discomfort. We learn the most when we leave the familiar to discover the unfamiliar, when we shift from the land of certainty to the land of uncertainty.

We still need time to repair. Mental repair is called integration. Mental repair is integrating the new experience from the land of uncertainty with things familiar that we know. Integration builds mental strength.

Pushing to the maximum requires risk and discipline. Sometimes the risk looms too large and discipline too hard. So, all we do is the minimum. And, if all we do is the minimum, pretty soon, our minimum becomes our maximum.

Routine Grooved Behaviors

“I understand,” Marietta replied. “I got it. The way you explained it, now I know what to do.”

“You understand, in one part of your brain, but in the heat of the day, another part of your brain will want to do what it has always done,” I observed.

“But, now, I know what to do differently,” she protested.

“And, when you walk into the situation, that other part of your brain will take over and you will fall back on your habits, your grooved behaviors, even if they were not successful.”

“I hope that won’t happen,” Marietta flatly said.

“The only way to act in your new understanding, is to practice, practice and practice, until your new understanding becomes a habit. Only then will you be able to execute in a new way. We think we choose our success, but we don’t. We only choose our habits and our habits will determine our success.”