“Discipline yourself and others won’t need to.” – Coach John Wooden
Everybody needs a plan! Coaches have a game plan, pilots have a flight plan, investors have an investment plan and architects create a building plan—the list goes on. Nothing of great substance happens without a plan. Of course, plans are not worth the paper they are written on if they are not followed by actions.
Some just plan, plan and plan some more. Winners plan for success, do something, check the results, act again to make the plan better, and then repeat the whole cycle. Plan-Do-Check-Act.
The first time I came across this concept was when I was learning statistical process control (SPC) as a young engineer with the Ford Motor Company. At the time, Ford was embracing the teachings of Edward Deming and instructing every employee on the fundamentals of statistical measure and process improvement. We quickly implemented statistical analysis on key manufacturing processes to compare the actual process performance with the planned performance. Using this technique, we quickly discovered any variation from the plan and took the necessary steps to understand the problem, correct it and improve the process. This rapid Plan, Do, Check, Act feedback struck me intensely. I realized that, if this could work so eﬀectively at a small level, surely it could work on a big level.
In subsequent companies, I used this concept at a strategic level. I would ensure a strategic plan was in place; execute the plan with the right level of detail, commitment, and infrastructure to do a great job; measure the results, and then modify accordingly. If it works for some of the biggest companies in the world, then it can work for you.
When planning for a project, do the following: Plan: Make a clear, concise and action-oriented plan of what you intend to achieve, including specific goals, measures and resources, and the steps necessary to achieve success.
Do: Execute the plan immediately, ensuring you have the right resources in place, and the coordination of activity, incentives, alignment and accountability. Focus and play to win.
Check: Measure the results of your action in a clear, accurate and timely manner, and communicate those results with all who need to know.
Act: Determine how your results vary from the plan and then take the actions necessary to make improvements based on this deviation.
This simple Plan-Do-Check-Act routine can be applied to all types of organizations, and even at a personal level, in order to focus actions and improve results.
Eamonn has a B. Eng. (Electrical) from Lakehead University, MBA (Finance) from University of Toronto, and has completed Executive Education at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He lives in Vancouver, Canada. Follow him on twitter @EamonnPercy.