Why shouldn't we compromise our planning time? When used well, the activities undertaken in planning provides your people with the clarity they need to draw upon when times get tough, workdays get longer, and conversations get harder.
In my first job out of public accounting, the work that Atholl, a colleague and dear friend of mine, did to set up the annual year-end financial reporting process was a really good example of how providing clarity in the planning phase can be an effective way to engage people, motivate them and ultimately deliver quality results on time.
Running the month and year-end reporting processes was a big part of his role, and this involved publishing a timetable that the whole Finance and Actuarial team needed to work towards to meet our reporting requirements. For someone who's role was to review the output of the process (the deliverable) but not necessarily be involved from beginning to end, it looked merely like another spreadsheet with names attached.
"Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential." ― Winston Churchill
However, over the 2 years we worked together, he significantly improved the process surrounding the timetable. It went from being a fairly stagnant spreadsheet to a dynamic planning tool that was used to facilitate robust discussions about our deliverables, our deadlines and how we could improve our processes by focusing more on the things that mattered. In fact, in my last year, the 'timetable meeting' involved Atholl engaging the team in a lively and frank discussion around how the team could deliver to those dates without killing themselves. The team knew there would be some late nights and possibly some weekend work, but Atholl provided the space and clarity for the team to understand their options to openly raise and address these concerns.
What I admired about the way Atholl ran that process, was that he remained clear in message and focused on delivery so that he always brought the planning conversation back to clear deadlines and delivery. How that played out during the crunch time, was that everyone executed. Everyone was clear on what needed to be achieved, by when and why, and who to communicate with for what task. The team simply needed to focus on their role in the process. As a result, that year, we met our deadline, provided a deliverable that was a higher quality than seen in previous years, and relationships between and within the teams and leadership group were strengthened from their truly collaborative approach to, and during, crunch time.
As you approach your next deadline, I invite you to take a leaf out of Atholl's book. Use the planning phase of crunch time as an opportunity to improve your chance for success.
Used effectively, clarity motivates and inspires and it will allow your people to maintain a feeling of control and prevent them from 'getting lost in the weeds' during crunch times.
Effective planning provides clarity which leads to results.
What will you do today to provide clarity to your team?