Planning Power: Plan or you will be planned for
Planning Power is all about working on the Right Things. At the Right Time. The Right Way.
But if you’re like most contractors, planning is the last thing on your mind. You’re fully engaged in trying to manage the daily chaos that goes on at your company.
I get it. I was once a contractor just like you and this daily chaos is how our family business ran for many years. It didn’t change for us until we learned how to plan and then execute the right way.
When I urge you to give up the insanity, it’s coming from a place of empathy. And it’s also with the knowledge that nothing’s going to change until you change the way you spend your days, weeks and months at your company.
Here’s what’s strange. The daily craziness is addictive. It’s we, as owners, who attach our identity to. After all, this place would fall apart without us to ride to the rescue.
I was addicted to it too. But, I got sick of it.
Know that even with my having great partners, my dad and my brothers, to help and a good-sized company filled with great people it was a daily fire drill. Here’s what’s even more sickening. I was to blame for a lot of the dysfunction. What I finally came to realize and change was my being the bottleneck on too many things. So even though there were other capable hands that could help, I didn’t empower them to do it.
My big concern was that I would overburden an already busy staff. But, something had to give. Finally, the day that changed my company and myself happened. It was when I got back to my office with what I felt was a super urgent project that needed to be worked on.
I went to my staff one-by-one to ask them to help me with this. The answer I got each time was they were already busy with a super-urgent project.
That was it. I made them carry in all their papers on the projects they were so busy working on and to dump what they brought onto the conference table. Yikes!
Many were working on projects they felt I had made a priority when it actually wasn’t even important to me. Okay it gets worse. A number of times as we dug through the pile we discovered several staff members were actually working on the same project but totally without knowing anyone else was doing that. too.
My body tightens with a sick to the stomach reflex still thinking about it all these years later. But like a lot of thing in life, the worst moment can lead to your best moment and in this case it did for all of us.
Right then and there we pinky swore that this would never happen again and with that in mind we put our words into action.
The first thing we did was write out one giant list for all the things we were already working on. Next we added other projects we all agreed we should be working on in the near future. And this list became our first “Master Project List.”
The Master Project List was about 100 items. Some were not so much projects but some key habits we needed to work on like Steps of Delegation and Steps of Discipline so we could be less arbitrary and more objective.
Wow a list of 100 things is big!
The second thing we did is, we decided to prioritize this list. But how? We nailed it when we said the only way the 100 gets to join our Top 30 List is for one of two reasons:
It either solves our biggest challenge or solves our biggest problem or it helps us grow and be profitable.
A Top 30 list was great. Then, the truth sunk in. We can’t work on 30 things at the same time and do it right.
Finally, we took our Top 30 List and distilled it down to our Top Five list by using the same two reasons to make the list.
We now agreed that no matter how busy we are no week can pass without us taking some action on the Top Five because we said that being on the Top Five would change for the better how we run our company.
A great question was asked, “When does something come off the Top Five list?”
As a group, we decided that when something got done (or at least 80% done) on the Top Five it came off the list. That was in recognition that some things are never done.
Example: Working on written operations manuals is never done because as the business changes the manuals need to change. That said they are always being tweaked and not rewritten.
Accountability was the last thing we had to do. It’s easier to put a plan together like this than it is to hold each other accountable. That’s why we decided that it had to be in writing where everyone could see it and it had to be updated each week. No exceptions.
This was the birth of the Top Five #1 Whiteboard and it’s what I’ve made all my one-to-one clients do when I come the first time and do Planning Power!
Below is the template for how I teach my clients to go about rolling out the Top Five whiteboard:
Step #1: Hang it in a prominent place where everyone will see it each day. Note: If that’s not possible to do with one whiteboard, you need to hang up two.
Step #2: The company’s owners and top management call the whole team together to let them know what this board is all about by having smiles on your face and exuding excitement.
Doing this will allow your company to be working on the right thing, at the right time and in the right way!