Do you take shortcuts?

I recently had a column published in the Washington Business Journal. The topic was Seven simple steps help you to plan projects. (Yes, I am very excited about being a guest columnist this year.)

Since planning is an essential element of most people’s work – and it is one element that can dramatically impact both results and the pervasive sense of overwhelm, it is a major piece of the foundation work I do with my clients.

A recent conversation with a couple of friends was quite telling. They are in the midst of planning a new focus and direction for their business, while at the same time being responsible for the business they have in process.

Have you ever done that? Have one project moving forward, and had to plan for a new project at the same time? Almost everyone has had that happen. Rarely do we have the luxury of working totally focused on just one thing, with everything else waiting patiently for that one project to get complete. (Oh, but don’t we wish that would happen?)

What was quite interesting was discovering that they had done some of the steps in the planning process, but not all of them. And, as a result they were driving each other crazy! She kept investigating additional potential avenues they could pursue to get where they wanted to go, while he kept worrying about what could go wrong both with what they were considering and with everything that was already in process.

The step they had skipped was the ‘provide for control’ aspect of the plan. This part involves brainstorming all the potential pitfalls and breakdowns in the project, as well as determining the milestones and timelines.

In most cases the potential pitfalls and breakdowns are easily identified and can just as easily be averted with a little thought. Think of it as disaster planning for your goals.

As my friends discovered, skipping this step just led to more anxiety. What was absolutely great about it was that one of them was automatically worrying about all the potential problems, while the other was actively investigating all the possible ways they could achieve their goals. All they had to do was sit down and talk – recognizing that each perspective was essential to the planning. Once they saw that they were able to have a conversation – letting his concern illuminate all the potential problems, and her focus add to the planning. They were just at different stages in the thinking process.And the different stages required different thinking.

It sure beats making each other wrong and driving each other nuts!

Where are you taking shortcuts? Where are you finding yourselves at odds with a partner or colleague? Is it possible you are having the same conversation, just from different perspectives?