Plan “the How” not just “ the What”

It may seem like a simple idea, but I have often been faced
by the reality of great (or even just “good”) ideas failing in the marketplace
because of a lack of implementation planning.  
Too often most of the time is focused in the planning stages of a
business on the “whats”; “what” has worked in the past, “what” is competition
doing, “what” has been successful in a limited market or region, “what” do our
customers need from us, “what are our ready-now innovation plans, etc.
 A litany of “whats”
but very little time spent on the “hows.”
This came to life recently in a meeting that I had with a
client in my consulting business.  We are
working on a major brand/organization restructuring project and at a break I
asked one of our client contacts about past “change initiatives” that have been
executed by his company.  He described a
few different examples of initiatives over the past few years, each of which
had “gone off the rails” at one point or another.  I asked his opinion on why the initiatives
had struggled, and quickly he responded that once they got 80% of the way to a
conclusion, they “pulled the trigger” and moved on to the next
issue/opportunity, not waiting to insure the first idea was executed fully and
successfully.  That conversation reminded
me of this dynamic of businesses and their leadership teams being so focused on
the initiatives to deploy they forget the critical importance of executing
those initiatives well…. Too focused on the “whats,” not the “hows.”
While the following is not an exhaustive list of ways to
insure the “hows” are anticipated and planned for, these three ideas should be
helpful in taking steps to insure that “the hows” get the right amount of
Implementation Map
Before completing any project plan, ask the question to see
the implementation plan or “map,” and if you are part of the project team,
remember that no project is compete without one!  While not a hard and fast rule of thumb, if
you haven’t spent at least 10-15% of your project planning time in building the
implementation map, you have probably NOT given it the right amount of
attention.  Insure that you map the steps
required to “get the job done” with distinction.  Think of yourself as the general contractor
on a building site, and push yourself to see what steps need to be taken to
complete the project ahead of time, under budget, and at a very high level of
quality!  No small task but if you don’t
take the time to ask yourself how to accomplish those outcomes, it is rare to
accomplish them!
Competency Grid
Once the implementation map is drafted, start piecing
together the “competency grid,” in other words the skills that are required to
achieve success on this initiative.  If
we want or need to rebuild a planning system, do we have the talent in-house to
achieve that goal or do we need to go outside for the resources?  Don’t get stuck on “how many” or “how much”
you need (that is coming in the next phase), stay focused on the needed
skills.  Working with a client recently
who is in the middle of a major new product rollout, we realized that the
organization didn’t have any resources to call on or cover the targeted retail
stores and check shelf placement and on-shelf pricing post rollout and have now
scrambled to put that in place.   A
better approach would have been to identify the competency required (in-store
merchandiser coverage) as part of a “competency grid” and had that in place
before the rollout.
Capacity Plan
Now we need to work on the “how many” and “how much” of the
project plan.  Remembering the
“implementation map” and the “competency grid,” now we need to actually analyze
and build a model of the quantity of the capacities needed to fulfill or exceed
the requirements of the “implementation map.” 
This is so crucial in order to accurately build an implementation budget,
so often either forgotten or only built at a surface level to fulfill project
plan requirements.
As you dig into the work ahead, remember these three steps
and most importantly remember to put your attention on the “hows” of your
project/business, not just the “whats.”  As
I have shared in earlier essays, “good” ideas executed brilliantly typically
exceed the impact of “brilliant” ideas executed adequately…. Focus on the “hows!”