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Plan and adjust

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Plan and adjust

Scott Miker

Most people that set out in life to achieve something start out with too little planning.  They throw together a plan in their heads and refuse to evaluate the full system around what they hope to get.

This may sound like a solid strategy in today’s ever-changing world, but it isn’t.  Too often when I see people start out with this loose, barely-there plan, they end up being too rigid to adjust once they set out.

They make a declaration such as “Monday I am going to start working out for two hours a day,” or “I am going to be a millionaire by dropping out of college and taking a job now so I can start making money right away.”

While it is admirable to have big goals to push you throughout life, we can’t just assume that our first thought will be enough to catapult us to success. 

We have to plan.  We have to strategize.  We have to think through some contingencies. 

Getting a solid plan is important so you know what direction you will head and what to do when you start hitting adversity.  But too many people assume that a plan locks you in and forces you to ignore obvious signs to change along the path.

In Springboard, Launching Your Personal Search for SUCCESS, by G. Richard Shell, the author states, “Focused planning works because it creates the best conditions for adjustment and improvisation.  Napoleon famously summed up his genius as a military strategist with eight words: ‘You engage, and then you wait and see.’  The more complex, interactive, and lengthy a plan of action is, the more improvisation will be required for you to reach the goal.  Step-by-step plans are necessary, but adhering to them too rigidly closes your mind to opportunities.”

This is a great perspective.  We plan, not so everything will happen exactly as we want, but because we know we will need to improvise and want to have a better understanding of the landscape so we can change and adjust our approach.

Previously I worked for a large non-profit striving to create new products that could produce revenue for the organization.  I saw time and time again too much of a focus on a rigid, immovable plan. 

We would have to create numerous strategic business plans and present them until everyone agreed.  We would present it to the board and then set off on the path we outlined.

But as soon as we started to experience areas that prompted us to adjust, we froze.  We couldn’t do it.  We invested too much in this way and it would have taken too much work to change after all of that planning.

Instead we should have taken more of a Lean Startup approach and used our extensive planning and knowledge of the market to set a course but then change when necessary.  Instead of expecting our first full plan to be executed flawlessly without any outside influence, that wasn’t reality.  In reality we had a solid start to a plan but couldn’t ignore obvious signs that our plan was slightly off. 

Improvement can be difficult, especially when we set big goals that require a great deal of growth and flexibility.  But if we take the system and habits approach we can slowly build the right habits and continue to adjust throughout the process.  We can lock on to what is working and throw away the strategies that fail. 

This can set us on a path towards accomplishment and success.  It can give us the confidence to proceed into a new direction, striving to experience something that we never before experienced.