A few weeks ago, I mentioned Stephanie and I went on a sales call together.
During that call, the Chief Operating Officer asked us “How has the process failed?”
It was an interesting question and I thought about it as I was doing yard work over the weekend.
I have a LOT of trees so I had a lot of time to think about this!
My off the top of my head response was “That’s an interesting question. I don’t think the process fails. I think people fail the process.”
I apologized and said “Let me explain as I don’t want that response to come across as arrogant!”
Having an easy to implement system/process sets you up for long term success
Take exercise and nutrition for example.
I know when I’ve stayed true to a structured program, then changes result. When I stray from what I know works, then I get the same results I had prior to wanting a change.
It feels very similar.
The parts of the process that I feel need to be adhered to hinge on the following five foundations:
- Leadership – there has to be a champion who truly values the input from a group. It can’t just be an “engagement exercise.”
- People – are the right people in the room who can make the appropriate decisions/recommendations? And do they represent the breadth of diversity that is needed for long term, successful implementation? And how were they recruited to the session?
- Design – was the upfront work done before assembling the group?
- Time – is the design realistic in terms what is being tackled at once?
- Facilitation – is there fidelity to the process as it was learned?
1. Successful Planning Sessions are Crafted, Not Thrown Together at the Last Minute
Success hinges on leadership. It seems too basic to even mention this but it is critical.
Every project…every opportunity…every problem falls into someone’s lap. They have to want to see a different state for that project and be passionate about it becoming a reality in order for a Compression Planning session to be successful.
They can’t just be an “exercise in engagement” for Compression Planning to work.
Compression Planning gives that leader a tool/system to help move their concepts/wants/desires/needs/dreams forward. It won’t DO the actual work but it helps think through all of the nuances that go into making it work.
It also helps with what I call “spread the love.” If all of the work falls into one person’s lap, then I don’t consider that to be a successful Compression Planning session.
When I’m leading a group, if I see that dynamic happening, I put the brakes on and do a reality check.
A good leader also helps ensure this happens…not by strict delegation, but by setting the example…and it goes back to how your participants were recruited to the planning table in the first place.
Which leads to our second foundation…People
2. Your A-Team – hand-picked for a specific purpose and to fill a specific role
I hear the term “silo” all the time. Doesn’t matter the industry or even the size of the company.
I love the recruiting principles of Compression Planning – mostly, diversity of thought.
How do you break down the silos? Get them sitting around the table thinking and sharing and building together.
My dad always talked about Mike Vance’s role at Disney as Director of Idea and People Development.
HR and R&D – two traditionally separate functions.
Disney’s approach was as follows:
“The way you develop ideas is by developing people. The way you develop people is by developing ideas so let’s combine the two functions.”
I also really like the analogy of a “stream.”
There are people “upstream and downstream” of any function. Who “feeds” you and who do you “feed”?
It is helpful to have all three areas at the table when addressing complex issues.
If you rely on just EMAIL to recruit your participants, you are missing an important opportunity…one that lays the foundation for implementation before you even assemble the group.
Think through the WHO and HOW you will ask them to the table.
3. A Compression Planning Design – the upfront work
You need to have the “blueprint” before you assemble the team.
You’d never build a house on the fly and you’d never design on the fly with a project team.
“Do you want 1 bedroom? 2 bedrooms? 5? And how many bathrooms?”
You need to take the time to do a Design – be it 20 minutes or several hours.
Coming to clarity with your Design – understanding and articulating what you really want and needs – is sometimes a sprint, and sometimes a marathon.
Send your Design to us for feedback/tips/hints. It was part of your tuition and you can do it as often as you want!
4. Time is obviously a limited resource. It is Compression Planning, not Magic Planning (although from what we hear, it seems magical at times).
You either “Time your Design” or you “Design to the time you have.”
You need to orchestrate your designs.
I see people trying to take on too much in too little time.
While you can get A LOT done with Compression Planning, you do have to thoughtfully plan out how and where that time will be invested.
5. You need to know how to “drive the bus” – the skills necessary to lead the group through the Compression Planning process
Compression Planning, on the surface, looks deceptively simple.
My dad once had a guy introduce him as “the guy who teaches people to write on cards and pin them on boards.”
He was a little…well, let’s go with the word ‘mad’ at that introduction.
There is PROCESS and there is CONTENT. When you are leading a group, you need to be skilled at PROCESS.
Yes, a skilled leader can provide content when necessary and appropriate, but the person leading the group first and foremost, needs to keep the group moving through the process.
And while we tell people to NOT let Compression Planning compete with other structured systems you’ve learned, there is still needs to be fidelity to the process.
The “bumps in the road” in Compression Planning session usually occur when people don’t adhere to the process – they adapt or improvise.
While there is a LOT of flexibility in Compression Planning, if you don’t pay attention to the five foundations covered above, then you increase the chance of failure with your planning efforts.
Because they WORK!
Hope these continue to solidify your planning and implementation efforts!