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SMART Plans - The tranquilizer dart of business

November 26, 2011 Mike Rose

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Do you ever feel like shooting the CEO with a tranquilizer dart?

To say we need a plan is like saying we need revenue. What we imply when we say we need revenue is PROFITABLE revenue. Your ideas and your business objectives need SMART plans. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-driven, Time-bound plans.

Way Twos walk the halls of the office humming the Steeler Wheels song, “I’ve got fools to the left of me jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you.” Way One thinkers are definitely not fools and Way Threes are definitely not jokers, but the Way Two thinker definitely has a very difficult job.

Obviously when we say a Way Two thinker, we mean a Qualified Way Two thinker. But enough with the implications.

The leader’s idea of planning is a sketch on a napkin or the most popular, the white board. They see the end result in their head because they have vision. Their passion may move them to action so fast they don’t create the SMART plan. The 20th century thinking is, “an idea without action is a pipedream.” The 21st century thinking (the ROE way) is “an idea without a plan is a pipedream.”

When someone spends the time creating a SMART plan they must also spend just as much time making sure the team ‘stays on plan.’ A SMART plan manager will manage the people performing the tasks, not to do the task themselves, otherwise they are micromanaging.

So, what is a SMART plan?

Specific: Each plan should have a timeline with major documented milestones. Each milestone should be supported with dependant and independent tasks. Each task should have a resource (otherwise called the blame column) assigned to it with its own due date. If necessary, each task should also have a budget assigned (fixed fee or cost per hour). And yes, if you have a budget, you need a final ‘actual’ number too.

Measurable: Are you on plan? Want to get the idea-guy off your back? Be able to confidently say the four magic words, “We are on plan.” Trust me it will stop them in their tracks like a tranquilizer dart. What is not measurable is not manageable. Managers manage the people implementing the plan. If there are no measurables, you will have a tendency to jump in and make yourself useful and micromanage. No one likes being micromanaged so it’s not too useful, plus this style takes mentoring out of the relationship.

Attainable: Everyone does not support stretch objectives (goals). The additional effort it takes to push the envelope to get better is a manager’s responsibility. It is very difficult to manage through this extra effort. Mentoring however, is a great way to get that extra push to get a team to work towards a result much bigger than the individuals.

Results-driven: Remember my blog on the radio station WBOC? Want a committed staff? Create a plan that will produce the desired results. A plan that will contribute to the accomplishment of the business objective, but work within the confines of available resources and budget. Teams want to succeed.

Time-bound: I mentioned time in the ‘specific’ section, but it is so important it deserves repeating. Time is money. Those who manage time effectively will accomplish more. Every task due date must be managed according to plan. One small unaccomplished task could create that dreaded domino effect that could topple the entire plan…not to mention the teams results and perhaps the intended plan beneficiary's confidence. If you pay attention to the small things, the big things will take care of themselves.

It’s probably apparent now that a plan bridges idea to action. The qualified planner is a gifted individual with a lot of patience, good communication skills and discipline (fiscal and otherwise) to be able to shoot the idea person with the tranquilizer dart…or the more socially acceptable way, to simply say, “we are on plan.”

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