I have been a part of much discussion this planning season over staying the course versus changing our plans for the coming year.
In short, the conversations boil down to two positions that sound something like, “We need a new plan to be successful next year,” followed by the rebuttal of, “We can’t keep changing our plans and expect to get anywhere.”
The tough part for me is that I often agree with both positions. Whether it’s with a client’s business or in my own company, I want to make adjustments where things aren’t producing desired results; but, I also know that patience, consistency and perseverance are critical ingredients to a successful plan.
Which way do you go?
Recently I’ve found a benefit in taking a side step with perspective and considering simple adjustments to the plan as just that, adjustments. Should we consider changes to features of a plan as changing the plan? Often the answer is “no.”
You may have heard the analogy of a plane flying from New York to Los Angeles. The plan averages being “off course” for more than 90% of the flight. Constant navigational adjustments are necessary to arrive at the targeted destination.
So, how do you determine whether you are being impatient, inconsistent and quitting on your best laid plans or only tweaking and making adjustments?
3 Questions to Determine How You’re Making Changes
Here are some test questions to help determine whether you are changing direction or just making course corrections.
- Are you adding or removing core elements of the plan?
- Are you adding or removing significant resource requirements for the plan?
- Are you making material changes to the product or service centerpiece of the plan?
If the answer to any of these three questions is “yes,” you may be making substantive changes to your existing plans. My partner wrote about the perseverance required to see a business plan through to success here.
If the answer to all three of the questions is “no,” you are probably just tweaking or making common adjustments. Like in the airplane story, adjustments are necessary and it is of greater concern if you have no adjustments than it is to make minor tweaks that optimize your plan for improved results.
Notice that it only takes one “yes” to mark a change in direction; hence, it requires three “no’s” to confirm you are staying the course while tweaking your existing plans.
The point here is not to judge whether changing plan direction is good or bad but to help identify whether we are actually changing direction away from an existing plan.
Changing plan direction should rightly come with much scrutiny, due diligence and associated consideration. But, if you wonder how to discern the difference between changing direction and making adjustments, consider the three questions above.
There are conditions that require significant changes to our business plans and there are conditions that call for simple course adjustments. Both changes and tweaks are necessary in the effective management of your business. I have found it helpful to recognize the difference between the two in prioritizing focus, managing discussion and minimizing tension within myself and my team.