Wednesday, May 4, 2016

How to Learn a Productivity System Part 3: Planning

“Soldiers, sailors, and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon the greatest crusade toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.” - Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme Allied Commander 

These were the words spoken before the D-Day invasions were executed.

In light of the immense planning that was required to pull off this amazing multi-nation, multi-front, humungous battle for freedom, another famous quote is also realized.
“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything”Dwight D. Eisenhower.

D Day Invation

At home and at work I believe this quote about planning to be spot on.  It’s interesting to see how your brain works differently in a meeting or during an activity if you’ve done some planning versus when you wing it.

Consider Two Scenarios

Scenario #1: You receive an e-mail meeting invitation from a colleague titled, “Acme Contract” and the meeting is schedule for tomorrow. The body of the invitation says,”-Thanks.” You’re aware of the Acme Contract and you know you’ll be working on the Acme contract. If fact, you have some very specific feelings about the Acme Contract and how it will impact you and possibly others on your team.

You show up to the meeting and your colleague says, “We’ve got to update the contract and bid based on new input from my boss.  I’m showing the spreadsheet on the overhead. 

Let’s update the info to reduce the overall cost.”
Scenario #2: You receive an e-mail meeting invitation from a college titled, “Acme Contract Updates.”  The body of the e-mail says,

Goal: Review and Update Acme Contract Cost and Assumptions to Reduce Overall Cost.
1. Review current contract and bid.
2. Re-assess assumptions
3. Update bid based on new assumptions
See attachment for current contract and bid assumptions.

You show up to the meeting and you know what the outcome is. Your brain has already been working subconsciously on new assumptions and ways to save costs. Your brain has a slight edge over Scenario #1.  

Ask yourself this question, “Assuming a 1 hour meeting, how much time is saved in Scenario #2 over Scenario #1?”

What do you think? 5, 10, 15, or 30 minutes?

If there are 3 people in the meeting you would minimally save 15 minutes total for your company and 5 for yourself.

If there are 5 people in the meeting and you save 30 minutes, you just saved 150 minutes for your company and 30 for yourself.  WOW. Do you think it’s realistic to save your company 2 1/2 hours of time?  

Surprisingly, I think you’ll find it’s very realistic and practical. If you do this, you’ll be a hero among your peers and in the eyes of your superiors because you’re creating more value in less time.

You might be saying, “Sounds pretty idealistic and like it will take a lot of work to create that goal and agenda.” 

A Mechanism to Train Yourself to Plan

1. Commit to never sending a meeting invite out unless you have at least one sentence in the body of the meeting notice, The GOAL: “Goal: ……”

It will take 1-5 minutes to write this single line but you will ALWAYS recoup that time by saving a minimum of 5 minutes in every meeting you host.

When you write the Goal statement in your e-mails it will force you to think just a little deeper. 

2.  Always include a concrete outcome in the goal statement.  

You would not use “Goal: Discuss developing a new app” as a goal statement. The word “Discuss” is not a concrete deliverable. The real PURPOSE of a meeting is not to discuss something. The PURPOSE of a meeting is to come to agreement and record decisions and action steps.  

A better goal, then, would be, “Goal: Create a Development Plan for the New App.” Now I have a pre-defined output for my meeting. At least for myself I know what I expect to get out of the meeting. At the end of the meeting I should have a draft plan to get from zero to new application.  

It works even better if you reiterate the goal at the start of the meeting so the brains of all the participants are tuned into the PURPOSE of the meeting. It’s like a magnet. The GOAL is one side of magnet and the people’s brains the other side of the magnet. Now the magnetic forces align.

Magnetic Attraction

Often when I write the goal it requires me to dig deeper so I actually do some thinking and PLANNING. Within 1-5 minutes I clarify my intentions for myself and for others and my return on investment will be much greater than the time it took to do the hard work of thinking.

People don’t like wasting time in meetings, but when you put together a 5-minute meeting plan and you execute that plan and you get the necessary buy-in and collaboration with multiple people, you really create a win-win.

In fact, I consider holding and conducting meetings as a productivity enhancer because I can actually get a high level of collaboration and alignment from group sessions.  When you have strong and capable people working on complex projects, you might need more meetings to get alignment. But you don’t want meetings that result in throwing around random off-topic ideas or bringing up the baggage of how, “it didn’t work last time we tried this, so it’s doomed to fail this time."  

You need to get the creative energy FOCUSED on solution-oriented thinking. The GOAL will guide you to that end. Facilitation training can also be very useful. Read more about that skill in a full-scale facilitation process, “Change Your Meetings and Change Your Life with Meeting Facilitation (aka Meeting Magic).”

Please let me know the outcome of your experience using the “Goal:…” statement in your meetings.