Step Four. The fourth letter in GOSPA, “P,” stands for Plans. Your plans are the rungs on the ladder from where you are to wherever it is you want to go. The planning stage is where the rubber meets the road. This is the real key to your success. As Patton said, “Take plenty of time to set up an attack. It takes at least two hours to prepare an infantry battalion to execute a properly coordinated attack. Shoving them in too soon produces useless losses.”
“In war, nothing is achieved by calculation. Everything that is not soundly planned in its details yields no results.”
Begin the planning process by making a list of every single thing that you will have to do to achieve your goal or objective. Leave nothing out. Be as detailed as you can. When you think of a new task or activity, write it down on the list. Keep working on this list until it is complete in every detail and describes the process of achievement from the first step to the final victory.
Next, make a list of everything that you will need in order to carry out every activity in your plan. List the people, knowledge, and skills that you will require. List the furniture, fixtures, and facilities that you will need. List the financial resources that will be necessary. Remember, “The devil is in the details.” The most effective leaders, like the most effective military commanders, are those who think through every detail in advance and never trust to luck for anything.
Once you have your lists of activities and resources, organize these lists in two ways:
1. Organize your activities by priority. Which items are more important, and which are less important? Use the 80/20 Rule. What are the 20 percent of your activities that will account for 80 percent of the value of all of your activities? Use the ABC Method of setting priorities. “A” priorities are very important. There are serious consequences if they are not done in a timely fashion. “B” activities are those that should be done, but they are not as important as “A” activities. “C” activities are things that would be nice to do, but they are not as important as “A” or “B” activities.
Your ability to analyze your list of activities and assign correct priorities to them is a critical skill of both success and leadership. It is often the determining factor between success and failure.
2. Organize your list in terms of the time at which the tasks must be completed. Something may be very important, a top priority, but it may not be required for several weeks or months. Every activity has a specific time/date requirement. Each of these tasks should be in order and then combined with your priorities to create your finished plan.
Determine which activities are parallel and can be done simultaneously with other activities. Many things can be done at the same time at which other things are being done. You can dramatically increase the speed at which you accomplish a goal by having several people or organizations working on different parts of the business.
When World War II began, the U.S. Navy was woefully short of ships to transport men and supplies to Britain. Henry J. Kaiser was assigned by the war department to build “Liberty Ships” as quickly as possible to replace the large number of ships that were being sunk by the German U-boats.
“The very worst use of time is to do something well that need not be done at all.” —BENJAMIN TREGOE
When Kaiser took over, it was taking two years to build and launch a single ship. Within a year, he had reduced the building time to two months per ship. And in one incredible display of American ingenuity and workmanship, he built a complete Liberty Ship, ready for commission, in four days!
What Henry J. Kaiser and others found was that the planning and pursuit of parallel activities enabled huge tasks to be completed in a fraction of the time that would be required if each task was only started after an earlier task had been completed.
Finally, there are sequential activities. These are activities that depend upon each other. One cannot be done before the other is finished. It is almost always sequential activities that determine how fast you can finish a job, initiate a strategy, achieve a goal, or accomplish a final objective.
Identify the key sequential activities in your project planning, and make sure that you get started on them early enough so that they do not hold up completion of the entire task.
Step Five. The final letter in GOSPA, “A,” stands for Activities. These are the tasks that have to be completed to fulfill the plans. Your job, either managing yourself or managing others, is to be absolutely clear about the specific activities that need to be done every single day to carry out the strategy.
In working with others, practice management by objectives. Take the time to explain, discuss, and agree on the job or jobs to be done. Make sure that everyone knows how he or she will be measured and when the tasks are supposed to be completed. Encourage people to report to you if they are behind schedule. Keep in regular touch with them to make sure that they are accomplishing the required objectives as agreed.
Another way to manage activities is to practice management by responsibility. You can use this method with people whom you know and trust and who have demonstrated a certain level of proven competence. To get the most out of this method, you should delegate both authority and responsibility for the completion of the task. Set deadlines and sub-deadlines so that the other person knows when the task is expected. Be available to help and support the other person if he runs into any problems or obstructions.
Finally, when you manage by objectives or manage by responsibility, remember that delegation is not abdication. Always inspect what you expect. The more vital the task is to the final objective, the more important it is that you stay on top of it. Never assume that things will get done without your regular and continued intervention and involvement. Like a doctor with a critically ill patient, you should make regular “spot checks” on your key staff to be sure that everything is on track and on schedule.