PLANNING: Why Your Good Ideas Don't Get Done

As we did our year-end wrap up, I saw the CEO start laughing to himself.  Gross-profit trigger points not being especially funny, I asked what the joke was

“It’s just that we’ve been wanting to do this for so long,” he said.

“How long?” I asked.

He looked at his pricing guy.  “How long have we been talking about this?”

The pricing guy shrugged. 

“At least 30 years.”

Most teams have smart ideas about how to make their business work better. 

Very few teams are great at efficiently and continuously putting their good ideas into action.

If your team is one of them, you probably feel pretty frustrated; caught, like most leaders, between the need to focus on the big picture and the relentless demands of the day-to-day. 

Below are 7 common mistakes that make it hard to execute and a strategy from the Critical Factors Method I use with clients.  Steal these strategies to make it easier to get your good ideas DONE.  

MISTAKE #1:  You Pick Too Many Things

Critical Factors Strategy:  PICK FEWER THINGS

Stop being optimistic.  Narrow your focus to a very small number of things that really do matter most.  Do the first set of stuff and then pick more stuff.  It’s better to pick 3 things you actually DO than write a fancy plan with 17 and only get part of the way on one. 


MISTAKE #2:  You Lose Focus

Critical Factors Strategy:  WRITE AN OBJECTIVE

Plans often stall out or spin out because the focus isn’t clear.  Extra stuff gloms on and distracts from the work that really matters. 

Be clear about exactly what you’re up to and why it matters and you’ll get more done.



MISTAKE #3:  You Pretend You Have Co-Leaders or Team Responsibility

Critical Factors Strategy:  OWNERSHIP

Each plan and each individual task should have a single person named as the responsible OWNER.  A whole team might contribute but naming a single owner to coordinate and report and be responsible eliminates confusion and creates a natural, easy mechanism for accountability.


MISTAKE #4:  You Have A Bunch of Different (Bad) Formats

Critical Factors Strategy:  SINGLE, SIMPLE, SHARED FORMAT
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When everyone uses their own format you end up with some that work and some that don’t.  People have to stop and think as they read each one to make sense of it.  All these things slow down the process. 

So does complexity.  You need plans that fit the lowest common skill set of your team.  (Cough, “No gantt charts.”)

Increase quality and execution by making it easy for people to do their plan and read each other’s work by using ONE format, simple and shared with the team.  It should include the project objective as well as individual tasks each with owners and dates. 


MISTAKE #5  You Have No Plan to Track & Manage Progress

Critical Factors Strategy:  CREATE A PLAN TO MONITOR

This is the single most important and most commonly missed element. 

When are you going to follow-up?  What is the system for monitoring progress and making adjustments? 

The answer can be as simple as a single monthly meeting (my favorite approach) that is strategically designed to be fast and effective and easy.  Having a specific plan for when and how you’re going to check in dramatically improves execution.

(Read THIS post for more secrets about running effective meetings.)


MISTAKE #6:   Your Plans Are Sloppy, Confusing, and Missing Steps

Critical Factors Strategy:  PAINT-BY-NUMBERS

Simple plans, clearly written, should have a “paint by numbers” feel.  It should be easy (for you and your team) to tell what should happen next. 

Write simple.  Get farther.



MISTAKE #7:   You Do the Work Instead of the Plan

Critical Factors Strategy:  Do the Plan So the Work Gets Done

People like to jump in and start writing the form for the new supervisor assessment instead of creating a plan to create and implement one.  This only works if you can get it all done in a single setting. 

Planning can feel like a waste of time.  But it’s worse to get part of the way and then move on to something else, never finishing what matters. 

Write a clear plan that covers all the big steps so they all get done.

People are not great at planning. 

And they’re worse at is as a group.  Because MOST teams aren’t good at prioritizing, planning, and executing internal infrastructure projects you get a huge advantage when your team is. 

Each one of these is a simple adjustment.  When you combine them, they help you sidestep some of the most common problems.  The cumulative impact of them is not simple or small at all. 

Wondering how to build processes that make it easier for your people to win? 

Check out Part II.  It includes detailed instructions for how to think through the different parts of your organization, figure out what you need and where to start.  Get the download HERE.

Want better, more productive meetings where more gets done and less brain damage is suffered? 

When you apply process science and some tricks from human behavior you get three really smart ways to make meetings a whole lot better.  Read more HERE.

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About the Author:  Alecia Huck is a hard person to find and a good person to know.  She specializes in working with fast-growth companies who need to learn the block & tackle skills of leadership; how to hold people accountable, run great meetings, keep track of people and work--the kind of tactical support that it is really hard to win without. 

Find out more HERE.

Contact Alecia directly at