Planning that moves the needle

Don't over-plan #

It's easy to get stuck in planning mode. Bullet lists, long-term plans, sweeping goals - they give us a sense that we're doing something and that feels good. Planning is important... until it becomes a distraction. 😅

This happens when we over-plan. Over-planning doesn't increase your chance of success but it does decrease your progress toward goals (that's a problem). Peter Drucker summed it up well when he said, "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency that which should not be done at all." 📉

This doesn't mean you should avoid planning altogether. Planning is incredibly helpful. But your focus shouldn't be on glossy 100-page strategy docs. Your focus should be on flexible plans that allow you to set goals, gather data, and improve quickly. We call this second approach Minimum Viable Planning. This is "get shit done planning", not "sit in a boardroom till your dead" planning.

Minimum Viable Plans #

The starting point for your minimum viable plan is an objective. This is a long-term or overarching vision. It should be something that gets you fired up inside! Something like, "quit my day job by the end of the year," not, "generate XXXX revenue in 12 months." It's okay if it's a bit vague. Your goals, process, and metrics are there to make it actionable:

Goals: Goals are smaller, measurable targets that tie into your objective. They can be recurring, e.g. "speak to 10 potential customers a week," or finite, e.g. "build a 200-person mailing list by April" Make sure your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound) and that you only choose a few. 🏆 If you set too many goals, you'll spread your attention and team too thin.

Process: Your process doesn't need to be fancy but it does need forcing functions - tasks, activities, or events that force you to take action and produce a result. At Krit, our process follows a simple Google doc that outlines our goals. Our forcing function is a once-a-week standing meeting to assess our goals and metrics. It's not glittery, but it works.

Larger teams might benefit from the SCRUM framework (a software-oriented implementation of agile). Solopreneurs may see big results from meeting with a mentor each week. Whatever process suits your size, make sure it keeps you accountable to:

  • (a) meeting often
  • (b) assessing your goals and metrics.

Metrics: To see whether you're moving the needle, you need to produce something more concrete than a gut feeling. Create or select specific metrics for each of your goals then analyze these metrics in every meeting. When you're small, metrics may be fairly simple - How many users do you have? How much feedback did you collect? - or they may be more complex. The important thing is making sure your metrics accurately assess whether you're moving toward, or away from, your goal.

That's really it. Set a goal, pick your experimentation process, and define how you'll measure (and apply) outcomes. This is your minimum viable plan. Everything about it will evolve over time as you grow and that's a good thing to look forward to. For now, just get your wheels on the ground. 🚴

One important thing... #

Some of what you do will fail. Mentally prepare for this because it's not a bad thing and you don't want to get too hung up on it. You have a ton of assumptions and some of them are going to be wrong. Your problem is you don't know which ones. Your plan is there to help you quickly figure out what is or isn't working so you know how to improve.

If you need a little help, join the Start in the South group. We'll help you, along with tons of other founders like you, set up a plan and hold you accountable.

Ready, set...goal! 😜

"You want to keep your product...moving forward at a cadence which is both aggressive and sustainable...forcing yourself onto this cadence results in your product getting a little bit better all the time."
- The Stripe Atlas Team

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