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Having decided upon the idea and accompanying scenario you would like to implement, your task now is to turn this vision into a step-by-step plan that is actionable and measurable. This plan of action will move you from your current reality to your desired reality where the solution to your problem has already been realized. This is also where strategic thinking comes into play.
Let’s now explore this sub-step in a little more detail.
Crafting Your Plan
While crafting your plan of action be sure to identify all the tasks and activities that will be required to bring your plan to fruition. Also keep in mind that everything here is related to scheduling and timing. You must therefore be very clear about how you’re going to go about achieving your desired outcome.
To begin with, reflect back on the options you have chosen:
- What options have I chosen, and where are they likely to take me?
Once you have clarity here, you can move on to the big rocks.
Identify the Big Rocks
The big rocks are the 20% of actions that you must take that will help you to achieve 80% of your desired outcome.
Once identified, you should spend 80% of your time focusing on these actions while only 20% of your time focusing on other actions that will help you to solve the problem you are facing. Furthermore, you must effectively prioritize and rank these actions in accordance with the objectives you would like to achieve. Ask yourself:
- What are the 20% of actions that will help me achieve 80% of my desired outcome?
- What is the most important action to take?
- What is the next most important action?
The “big rock” idea comes from a story about a science teacher who was trying to teach his students a valuable lesson.
A teacher placed a big jar on the table and filled it to the top with large black rocks until no more could fit inside. He then asked the students if the jar was full. Everyone said “Yes.”
But the teacher wasn’t convinced. So he pulled out some gravel and dumped it into the jar. The smaller pieces of gravel worked their way around the big rocks and filled in the spaces. He then asked the students once again if the jar was full. The students were starting to catch-on with what was happening and answered, “Probably not”.
The teacher smiled and pulled out a bucket of sand and started filling the jar. The sand seeped perfectly into the spaces between the gravel and rocks. When he was finished he asked the students again whether the jar was full. The students enthusiastically shouted “No!”
The teacher was impressed that his students saw more potential here. And so he took out a flask of water and poured it into the jar until it was filled to the top. Once finished the teacher looked at his students and said, “The point of this illustration is that if you don’t place the big rocks in first, you certainly won’t have enough room for them later.”
Focus on the big rocks, and make sure you put them in place before you begin prioritizing other things.
Analyze Your Activities
Now that you have your big rocks in place, it’s critical that you analyze the activities that you partake in on a regular basis and work out ways you can manage them more effectively in order to achieve your desired outcome.
Your activities could be commitments, responsibilities or maybe even processes that you or your company follow.
Gaining clarity in this area is paramount because it will help you to create space to get the right jobs done as quickly and effectively as possible. Ask yourself:
- How am I currently spending my time?
- What kind of activities do I partake in?
- How much time do each of these activities take?
- Which activities take up most of my time?
In the end, this is all about maximizing your productivity and output throughout the day to ensure that everything goes according to plan.
Specify Projects and Tasks
The objective here is to divide your desired outcome into several smaller projects if possible, and then into tasks that need to get done to complete each project.
The tasks you specify should be divided up into three distinct categories:
- Gold Tasks: These are your critical tasks that reap the highest benefits and returns. Working on these tasks will help you to achieve your goals quickly.
- Silver Tasks: These are your important tasks that allow you to make incremental progress over time. However, they do not have a significant impact on your goals in the short-term.
- Bronze Tasks: These are less important tasks that are relevant towards achieving your desired outcome, however they are not crucial or can easily be outsourced or delegated.
Once you establish your projects and tasks, don’t forget to indicate the resources that you will need in order to complete them successfully.
Here are some questions you might like to answer that will help you to develop your project and task list:
- How can I divide my plan of action into projects?
- What tasks do I need to undertake specifically to implement this solution?
- What tasks are required to complete each project?
- What action steps are required to achieve each task?
- Who is required to perform each task?
- What priority level do I give each of these tasks?
- What is the best order of events? (the order in which tasks will be accomplished)
- What comes first, and what comes next?
- Should things be done in a specific order?
- What categories do these tasks belong to? (gold, silver or bronze)
- When does each task need to be performed and completed?
- How regularly does each task need to be performed?
- How much time will each task take?
- How much time must I allocate to complete each of these tasks? (schedule extra “buffer” time to complete tasks)
- Where is each task supposed to be done?
- How is each task going to be executed?
- Do I have enough time and resources to get everything done?
- Are there things that I’m not going to get done and therefore might require further resources and assistance?
- When will i start?
- How will I begin?
- When do I plan to finish?
As a productive conscious person, be sure to also bundle similar tasks together in order to improve your use of time throughout the day.
Consider Other Factors
I don’t want to get into any detail here, however when drawing up a strategic plan of action that will help you execute and idea, be sure to cover the following key areas:
- Budget, forecasts and anticipated returns
- Roles and responsibilities
- Detailed timeline of milestones
- Possible risks/obstacles and contingency plans
- Resources required including money, people, time and equipment
- Communication and roll-out plan
The success of your strategic plan of action will depend on how meticulous you are throughout this step along The Path. Having said that, always keep in mind to be flexible at all times, as you might need to adjust your plan of action to unforeseen events and circumstances that may spring up when you least expect them.
Many times it’s not so much what you do but rather what you let go of that will help you to achieve your desired outcome.
In many instances there will be things that will continue to hold you back from achieving your objectives. However, the moment you let these things go, you suddenly have more time, better priorities and higher levels of commitment. All intertwine to help you build the momentum you need to achieve your desired outcome. As such it’s paramount that you let go of unnecessary or unimportant:
- Priorities (may need to be adjusted)
- What must I let go of specifically to achieve my desired outcome?
Create Rewards Structure
A reward’s structure will help you and your team to stay motivated and moving forward throughout this process.
Take time to create a solid reward structure that is based on clear objectives that can be tracked and measured.
- What rewards or incentive program can I potentially implement that will help keep me motivated?
Scaling questions are often used within life coaching circles to help a life coach decipher a client’s probability of success with bringing a plan of action to fruition. These questions can also help you to measure the probability of success of your own plans.
From a scale of 1 to 5, with one being low and five being high, how do you feel about working through this strategic plan of action and bringing your idea to fruition…
- Level of confidence?
- Level of concern?
- Level of commitment
- Level of motivation?
If you ranked a four or five in all of these categories, than you probably have nothing to worry about. However, if you ranked between one and three within one or more of these categories, than the odds are against you. You will most likely sabotage your own success and fail to achieve your desired outcome. If this is the case, than you may need to work on your psychology. In that case it’s worthwhile referring to the MasterMind Matrix for help in this area.
Tweaking Your Mindset
I won’t go into any real detail here, as many aspects on how to improve one’s mindset has already been tackled on the IQ Matrix blog. However, you may find it helpful to look at three main areas that will have the biggest impact on the progress you are able to make as you work your strategic plan towards your desired outcome. These three areas include your beliefs, qualities and the questions you persistently ask yourself.
If you’re struggling to make progress towards achieving your desired outcome, than it might very well mean that your beliefs are not congruent with your desires. In such instances, take some time to list down the limiting beliefs that might be holding you back from moving forward. In addition to this, also list down the empowering beliefs that you will need to cultivate to bring your idea and plan to fruition. Ask yourself:
- What must I believe to achieve this desired outcome?
- What beliefs could be preventing me from achieving this desired outcome?
You must believe wholeheartedly that you can implement this idea/solution you have come up with and thereby solve your problem. If you don’t believe, than there simply won’t be a hundred percent commitment behind your decisions and actions.
Also, consider the qualities you might need to cultivate to help you achieve your desired outcome.
- What qualities will I need to cultivate?
Have a look at this list of success qualities and decide which ones will be critical to your success.
Finally, persistently asking the right kinds of questions will keep you focused and moving in the right direction. However, you must also keep in mind that asking the wrong kinds of questions will slow down your progress or take you off target and moving in the wrong direction.
- What questions will I need to ask to keep myself on target?
Have a look at the basic rules of questioning for more information.
Measuring Your Progress
The final step is to make sure that you clearly measure the progress you make towards your desired outcome. This is important because it will help keep you motivated and focused throughout your journey. It will also help you to jump back onto the path if you ever veer off course.
- How will I measure my results?
- What tools could I potentially use?
- What specifically will I measure?
- How will I know I’m on target?
- How will I know whether or not I’m doing this correctly?
- How will I know whether my strategic plan of action is working?
- How will I know when I have achieved my desired outcome?
- How will I continue to check my progress?
How can I visualize this?
Integrated into this stage is a set of visual thinking techniques, strategies, tools and processes that you can utilize to help you visualize your thoughts on paper or in physical form. These techniques will be revealed and integrated into each stage along The Path over time.