All it takes are five simple ingredients to add creamy flavor to fried potatoes and punch to baked salmon. Those same five ingredients can serve as a base for a scrummy potato salad and the unsung heroes of a BLT sandwich.
When you combine garlic, mustard, egg, oil and lemon, you get an unforgettable garlicky mayonnaise, also known as aioli. Those individual ingredients are certainly tasty, but they become magical when combined. By slowly adding oil while whipping the other ingredients, the liquids emulsify and create a custard-like spread. Yum!
Like mayo, the ingredients for a planning process are simple. Yet they form something new when combined. When blended, purpose, people, time, communication, and action become key ingredients to projects, events and collaborations we deem successful.
Every new project, activity, collaboration and meeting, starts with purpose. To shift the understanding from one person to many, it’s an absolute must to define or acknowledge purpose among the group. Once purpose is well known, then everyone can focus their attention. They can identify good ideas and make appropriate decisions. A shared understanding of the purpose prepares everyone to be a decision maker. It helps to harness the strengths of the group and move forward as a team.
Every project affects people. The secret is to understand who is affected and in what ways the project is important to those people. It starts with empathy, and the recognition that each person is unique and has a different experience with the project. Communication can and should be tailored to fit the specific needs of those people involved, and often those adjacent. To do this, identify key individuals and groups of people defined through their shared values, employment, where or how they live, or identities. Communication is the key to keeping your stakeholders engaged and happy.
Time is oily and can slip away, causing stress and mistakes. Accept that taking time to identify a process can actually save you time. Figure out what needs to be completed first or next. What activities are crucial to the next task and who should be getting those things done? Yes, planning takes time, but a solid strategy prevents stress. In another time-related note: respect your team. Start your meetings with purpose and end them on time.
Every planning process should anticipate what people need to know and when they need to know it. You can’t control how someone receives and perceives information, but you can focus on keeping stakeholders informed. You can guide people through a complex process by providing critical and timely details.
Waiting for information leaves stakeholders in limbo. As we know from two years of a pandemic, the unknown is stressful. So communicate when a status changes and, if enough time has passed, communicate when the status is static. Communication helps to avoid frustration, but it is also an act of respect. Respect for the stakeholders, team, client, and yourself.
When you don’t have a plan, or are at a loss for what to do next, ask yourself three questions to focus your energies or that of a team member: What is my understanding of the task? What does the deliverable look like? What are the first three steps? Plans are not enough. All the planning and organizing in the world won’t get you one step closer to completing a project without action. Plans smooth the process, but plans are meaningless without movement. Maya Angelou said it best, nothing will work unless you do.
Action brings ideas into the world. Action is responsibility in motion. When mixed properly, action will turn the other ingredients into something magical. Something that makes you want to keep coming back for more.
Your partners in leadership.