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THE Leadership Japan Series by Dale Carnegie Training Tokyo Japan

Dec 29, 2021

We have all heard that old saw we “don’t plan to fail, we fail to plan” and we go back to our work, somehow imagining we have mastered the planning process. It is very insightful to however to watch a team when given a simple project.  Our instinct for action seems to overwhelm us and we leap straight into the details.  The nitty gritty of the execution is occupying all of the brain space. No planning is going on whatsoever. How can that be when we know we need to plan if we don’t want to fail?


One of the problems is that very few people are ever given any training on how to do the planning itself and we wind up copying what our bosses did.  This is especially the case in Japan, where following orders and reproducing what your seniors did is accepted behaviour.  If the bosses were master of the planning process, then this wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately that is far from the reality, so we need to make sure the team are cognisant on how to plan projects and work.


Project Planning can be broken down to an Eight Step Process which is simple to follow and very logical.


Step 1.  Desired Outcome

What are the outcomes we want?  How does this fit into the organisation’s direction?  We need to be very clear at the start on what the final achievement will look like.  This sounds easy, but projects can have multiple desired outcomes.  We always have limited time and resources, so some hard thinking needs to be done at the start to make sure we are setting out in the right track. Importantly, we need the project team to be sold on the outcome.  We cannot assume they simply will just our follow orders like robots.  They have to be sold on the goal or they won’t have the commitment and motivation required to put in the sustained work needed.


Step 2. Current Situation

Where are we today?  What is the current reality?  We need to see the situation both internally and externally?  This is a mini project in itself in order to really accurately understand the starting point.  We can’t just work off vague assumptions, we need concrete details and that means hard numbers and accurate measurements.


Step 3.  Goals

We need to clearly define and set goals.  The goals must be realistic, reasonable, challenging and achievable.  We need a good allocation of related tasks to achieve the goals, taking into consideration the abilities of our team members.  There will be a number of goals, so there needs to be a hierarchy of aspirations. The bigger goals need to be broken down to daily units which lead to the achievement of long term outcomes. 


Step 4. Action Steps

Many times goal achievement fails because effective, workable programmes and plans of action to achieve the desired outcomes, were not well designed.  I remember joining an organisation, just as they found out the $5 million they had allocated for a new operating system was a complete waste.  It didn’t work and had to be scrapped. The execution piece wasn’t properly planned and action steps to get to the goal, in the end proved to be insufficient to the task. There must be clarity about what needs to happen across everyone involved. Key details will include: requirements, task allocation, coordination, possible external and internal barriers, sequencing of the project stages and overall supervision necessities.


Step 5.  Time Frames

We must have clear timetables. Unit components must be completed on time and everyone needs to be clear about the deadlines which affect them. Accountability for deadlines needs  be enforced.


Step 6.  Resources

We need to estimate the cost of the plan.  Because it is important that all managerial activities be cost effective, the plans must be comprehensive looking at costs for people, material, time and the opportunity costs.


Step 7.  Obstacles and Contingencies

Nothing ever goes to plan is ancient wisdom.  We know that, so we need to plan for it. We should have factored in additional time at the start, so that we weren’t putting too much pressure on the project completion.  We need a series of Plan Bs built into the fabric of the plan.


Step 8.  Tracking and Measurement

What gets measured gets done, so we need to concentrate on the essentials.  We need to know if the project is deviating off course.  We need warning beacons set in place to tell us if we are about to hit trouble before it hits.  Before we start, we analyse which factors might preclude achieving the desired results.


These eight steps give us the map to move the project forward.  Getting the map right and then following the map are the two key components to getting the results we need.  Sounds simple doesn’t it, but as we know from experience none of this is easy and we need constant vigilance and adjustments, as we bump up against challenging and changing realities.