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Implementing plans is hard for teams. I get it. I see it all the time.

Struggling to implement plans is one key roadblock most teams have in common. I’ve worked with countless teams over the years to overcome planning issues.  I’ve noticed they all seem to get caught up in the same kinds of energy-sapping, time-draining mistakes. Even when their plans progress, they pay a high price in terms of lost productivity, team morale, and often, lost business.

You or someone on your team is likely suffering the consequences of at least one of the five common mistakes I’ve identified. Fortunately, you can learn how to identify them, too – and fix them, so you can recover team trust, time and other scarce resources.

The five mistakes are:

  1. Fuzzy plans (below)
  2. Lack of reporting team progress
  3. Not using tools
  4. No support for task managers
  5. No accountability

In this series of five articles, I’ll be highlighting one of these problems each week. By looking at these one at a time (which is a great strategy to help teams overcome roadblocks: one at a time!), you’ll have the chance to consider how you can implement these fixes in your office or with your volunteer teams.  If you’d rather read the entire report immediately, you can access it here. As a bonus, the full report also includes clarifying tips to help you improve your team’s plan implementation!

Mistake #1: You have “fuzzy” plans, with unassigned tasks, confusing or missing task descriptions, and outdated or unrealistic timelines.

One of the fuzziest plans I ever inherited began with an announcement from our company president. The story goes that he announced in a meeting, “Let’s produce a video on this project! We’ll screen it at our swanky event at the end of next quarter.” The idea floated around for a few days before it came to my attention. I had been identified as the best one to bring the project to life.

By the time I heard about the decision to make the video, it had already taken on an imaginary life of its own. Cast, crew and directors were pre-selected. I saw right away that the project was as fuzzy as it gets. I had no budget, no staff (I had never produced a video – and we did not have a production office in the company), and no shared vision, timeline or marketing plan.

I knew my first job was to get those details nailed down, fast. I also knew that the project was already in trouble, because I know how much effort it takes to rescue a fuzzy plan – even a brand-new one.

In reality, almost everyone who tries to implement a plan must begin with a somewhat fuzzy plan. The fuzziness only becomes a problem when you fail to recognize it, and let it continue.

Fix for Mistake #1: Clarify the details: what, who and when. 

There’s no other way to go about it but one at a time. But, while it may take some time and effort to fix every hole in the plan – essentially scrub the fuzziness out of it! – you don’t have to do it alone. You can and should enlist the help of your team members.

What’s the easiest way to start scrubbing fuzziness? Clarify! Here is how you specifically go about doing that.

Pick any task on your list and ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What: Do I understand this task or item? In other words, if I had to do it myself, would the goals and expected outcomes be clear and specific enough for me to act on?
  1. Who: Do I know who is responsible to complete the task? This person will be the task manager. The task manager oversees progress and keeps the team updated.
  1. When: Do I know when it is due? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” you have identified a fuzzy part of your plan that you can improve immediately.

Next in this series: Mistake #2, lack of reporting team progress.

Download the complete series by clicking here.


Help us Help YOU

Have you ever tried to fix a fuzzy plan? What hurdles did you face? Leave a comment below to tell us. We pledge to provide you with insight and solutions to help you build success for every one of your teams.

Kay Coughlin, CEO, Facilitator on Fire, is passionate about helping teams turn roadblocks into ACTION and transforming teamwork into TEAMS THAT WORK BETTER.


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