With most of Australia back in lockdown, it’s easy to think ‘Here we go again’! Be careful, because there’s a common – but dangerous – trap many leaders fall into when the future is uncertain.
Because you can’t see far ahead, it’s tempting to think only about small goals and short-term plans. But that leaves you too vulnerable to external changes, and you just become reactive – which is not healthy for recovery and growth. Some leaders, teams, and organisations get stuck here, lurching from month to month (or week to week!) with short-term plans that are continually revised or discarded. It’s not a sustainable strategy, and you will eventually break down.
Take a leaf out of NASA’s book.
When we were young, my family subscribed to Newsweek magazine, and I recall reading an article in the early 1980s about the Voyager 2 space probe, which had just passed Saturn on its journey to our outer Solar System. I don’t recall much of that article (it was forty years ago!), but I clearly remember this: In 1977, when the probe left Earth, NASA didn’t know how to program it to reach Saturn. But instead of waiting for more advanced software, NASA launched anyway, with the ability to remotely upload software in the future.
If they had waited for the perfect software, the probe would never have left Earth.
I’m no rocket scientist, but the message is clear.
Don’t wait for the perfect moment!
The perfect moment doesn’t exist. Instead, launch now and keep getting better along the way. This is especially important in our volatile, fast-changing world, because there’s simply no way to see the complete path ahead when you start the journey.
As Paul McCartney sang in ‘This One’:
‘If I never did it, I was only waiting
For a better moment that didn’t come
There never could be a better moment
Than this one.’
Launch faster and better.
There’s no magic formula for the perfect launch, but follow these principles to maximise your success.
- Think projects, not goals. Instead of setting unrealistic 12-month goals that will invariably change before you reach even the 20% mark, create shorter 12-week projects.
- Create a plan. Map out a broad plan for the twelve weeks and share it with your team. You don’t need fancy project management software; just sketch it out on a whiteboard or Excel spreadsheet.
- Create two backup plans. Anticipate the most likely things that could disrupt your Plan A, and create Plan B and Plan C to cover those situations.
- Get into action. You can’t afford to wait until week six to discover you are off track. Front-load the plan with activities that stress-test the plan and identify potential obstacles early.
- Engage everybody. Engage your team members at every stage, from identifying the project, creating the plan, choosing roles, identifying obstacles, and doing whatever it takes to achieve your goal.
Create a bias for launching projects, even without the perfect plan, and be willing to adjust the plan as the future unfolds.