To be successful, the first thing you need to do is make sure you set yourself clear goals and track them. So many people fail because they get the set-up wrong, they have the wrong focus, they don’t have the right roles and responsibilities defined, or they have overcomplicated the solution.
When you do that, you can end up doing the wrong thing, which always results in failure.
But even when you get the set-up right—that you have clearly defined goals; a good approach that will deliver those goals; the right accountability and the right people assigned to the right roles; and the simplest approach possible—you still need to deliver.
Too many people still snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I am not sure whether this is because they just assume that by getting the setup right, things will just go as planned.
Life’s not like that; we still need to make sure that we deliver, that things don’t go off track, and that we don’t fall at any hurdles that lie on the road to success.
To do this, we need to track and monitor our progress religiously, and for that, we need to have transparency into what’s needed and a clear and accurate picture of our performance so we can see where we are and what we need to do in order to be successful.
We need a kind of GPS for our project or our goals.
One that shows us the route, what our performance needs to be to get to our destination on schedule, and what our current performance is, so we know whether we need to change our course or approach when it’s clear we won’t succeed.
We need to create a plan for the progress we expect to make, and we need to have a measure of progress every 5–10% of the way along our journey. Anything less than every 10% of the way doesn’t give us enough time to react if we are not making progress, and anything more than 5% means we will end up with too many data points and we will be doing more measuring than we will be making progress, which is the wrong focus.
So what does this mean?
Well, let me give you a simple example. Let’s assume that my goal is to lose 10kg in 10 months. I did say it was a simple example.
What we should do is create a plan for the progress we expect to make. How much of the 10kg do we expect to lose each and every month? If we don’t know exactly, we could just assume that our progress will be linear and that we will lose 1 kg per month for 10 months until we reach our goal.
Or maybe we have better insight and we know that we will lose 2kg in the first month, then 1kg per month for the next 7 months, and then 1/2kg in the last 2 months as we get closer to our goal.
This allows us to create a plan for our progress. There are some other benefits to creating this plan; it increases our understanding of how our approach will work. If we can’t see the progress we will make, then maybe it means we will need to review our approach and maybe make it more aggressive.
Once we have the plan, this gives us a clear insight into where we need to be every step along the way. Here I have used 10% intervals, giving 10 checkpoints of progress. If the project or goal were more complex, I might increase that to 5%, or 20 data points, to give me more insight into progress early to ensure we are on the right track.
Once we have the right progress plan, then we need to measure our progress and compare it to our actual progress. In this weight loss example, it just means taking our weight every month and comparing the weight loss to what we had predicted would be our progress.
For all our projects, we need to create this same level of simplicity, this same simple view of the planned progress, and when we do that, we have a GPS for our projects that will help us track our progress and maintain control of our progress.
Without clear goals and tracking, we are like blind men running a race; we have no clue where we are or how far we have to go, and we may end up clutching defeat from the jaws of what should have been a simple victory.
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