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 The Business Realist

   A dose of reality for a saner workplace


Planning is effective when you are learning new things during the planning process. However, no matter how hard we try, we cannot predict the future. Sometimes the only way to find out, is to try it and see what happens.

Innovation: Execution

Woman on ladder looking through binocularsPilot over planning

Planning is a good thing. I believe many of our problems in business are a result of not thinking. However, I have seen quite a few planning efforts that  turn into a huge effort in futility. No matter how hard we try, we simply cannot look into the future. The purpose of planning is to learn and gain new wisdom in order to deal with whatever events may arise. In business today, people expect to be able to execute a plan perfectly. To that end, they create multiple scenarios encompassing best case, worst case, most likely case and all the variations in between in an effort to be prepared for what the might future bring. I don't think this adds any real value. This is just analysis paralysis.

The point of planning is learning. As long as you are gaining new knowledge or creating new insights, then planning is serving its purpose. Usually there comes a point where you just don't know what will happen. You can guess all you want and theorize and develop models but none of those work as well as finding out. Will people like our new product? Let's pilot test it. Will the new system work without bugs? Let's pilot it first. Will the new process be more efficient? Let's try it out in one part of the business.

There is no better way to find out what will happen when or what might happen if than to try it out. Each pilot brings new knowledge about the best way to execute.  This approach is much more effective than trying to have a comprehensive plan. In my career of thirty odd years, I have yet to encounter an accurate plan.


Is everybody happy?

The other great thing about piloting programs is that everybody wins. For the action-oriented types, the project is being executed, and they are satisfied that actions are occurring and results are being achieved. For those that want lots of data before they execute, a pilot program is a great way of gaining more information with the benefit  that the information is very credible. I recommend also using a control group with which to compare your pilot group so that you can have better information. People tend to overlook this last step and then all sorts of arguments ensue about whether the results were really due to the pilot or to some other factor.

Piloting also helps to overcome resistance to change. You're not actually implementing changes. You're just trying them out. No worries.  You can always change back.  Plus, people love to feel included and have some control over their environment. Running a pilot where improvements are based on constant feedback is an excellent way of including people and giving them some control.

Most importantly, setting up a series of pilots lays the foundation for a culture of continuous improvement. Many project implementations are big, one-time rollouts that end when the consultants go away. Pilots instill the behavior of implementing while experimenting and making changes.  Sometimes they never really end with each successive pilot being an improvement over the one prior and then the lessons gained are fed back to early pilot teams.  This is a lot like setting up quality circles, only they don't have the baggage associated with that term.

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Got Ideas?

Pile of light bulbsIf you have some ideas for articles, please drop me a note or leave a comment. If you have an article you'd like to contribute or link to,  I will be happy to publish your link and ensure that you get attributed.

Featured Neologisms

Undue diligence   –
the endless process of collecting more information in order to avoid making a decision
Team vynamics   -
Group behavior wherein individuals at a meeting vie for dominance