Thursday, 1 July 2021

Why Plans Don't Work: And What To Do To Make Them Succeed

Why Plans Don't Work 


Why Plans Don't Work, 

Here's Why And What To Do To Make Them Succeed. 

Leaders often say they have a plan, it can be written down or in their head. Sometimes they have great names, from action plans, to project plans, to business plans.  When I visit clients I am often presented with plans, ideas and concepts all in some state of existence. Some are online share documents with many contributors, several revisions and are carefully annotated graphs and charts, others are glossy brochure plans with pull out action and implementation plans.  
But Plans don't work!  A plan of any kind is just some works (images graphs etc) to make change happen. But plans do not make change happen. Plans only show the steps to make change happen. To move the company from where it is today too somewhere new. But that does not make change happen. That just moves people out of their comfort zone to somewhere where they are not comfortable.  

Habits Matter More Than Plans

Plans make change, but don't make change happen.  ITs what happens next that matters if plans are to work. Taking people somewhere new is interesting but getting them to stay there and thrive is the real goal of any vision. It is the afterwards that matters if change is too be sustainable. If you want people to perform in a new way it's making those new ways their habit that matters.
Habits matter because that is where change becomes the way. Habit is what matters in making change happen. The biggest driver of people's behaviours is creating new habits, but these do not feature in business plans. Habits are very powerful but business plans, action plans and implementation plans fail to have habit forming built into them.      
Habits are why people do things. Habits are why people are reluctant to implement real change. Habits are the most powerful driver in people's behaviour. Habits are often more powerful that people's desire to succeed in making change happen.  Employees are often open to change until it becomes something they have to do differently to their habits. 

Plans Fail. 

Habits are a lot more powerful than someone else telling you to change. This is why plans fail. Even if people see change as necessary they will agree that change needs to happen they often fail to embed it, preferring to go back to what they know, like and have always done, they kept their habit. 
"Plans change processes but fail to change peoples' habits."  
Changing habits needs to be built into a plan. The changing habit phase is rarely, if ever identified until after the plan has failed to succeed. Look at why plans fail and the most common and frequent reason given is the failure to change peoples' habits in implementing change. 
Creating and sustaining change requires plans to build in habit changing as part of culture change. Habit changing     takes time and needs to be planned out over the long-term not a short-term fix.  A plan saying we will change this process next week, is unlikely to succeed if it has been around for a period of time and is part of people's habits and is supported by the existing culture. 

The Power Of WHY

Simon Sinek has outlined the importance of why change is being made as a driver of supporting change. Leaders' must provide context, the WHY change is happening not just WHAT and HOW. The power of why is an essential underlying rationale which changes the relationship between leaders and employees, buying them into the strategy, rather than them being kept in the dark on a need to know basis of information.
Leaders need to understand that plans don't work, but people do when they are doing something they love, in a way they control for a cause they believe in.  
Plans are meaningless unless they carry everyone to somewhere they can create new positive habits. When you remove those habits you alienate your people. 

Changing Habits Takes More Than A Plan

Here are a few ways I have found to make plans really work, to get them beyond the page, implemented, and embedded with new habits in place.

Leadership Behaviours

]Leaders needs to act as ambassadors of change and provide new habits for people to adopt and ideally develop their own new habits within the new model which the plan determines.  Leaders need to proactive lead from the front in creating a new culture, being and developing role-models of the right behaviours and habits in each department so those role-models can be seen and modelled against.   

Recognition And Reward

Recognition is also a key element of habit forming, recognising and rewarding the right behaviours is central to bring the new way of working. Too often leader's spend too long penalising those not doing the right stuff rather than focusing on people doing the right behaviours.   

Burn Bridges

Burn the bridge of the old ways, change everything that needs changing with no going back or slippage options. This drives new behaviours which can be supported and allowed to develop.

Zero Tolerance

Zero and immediate corrective action to keep people on track with the new behaviours and performance which the plan requires. Do not let people have leeway in moving to the new way of doing things. Leaders must not just lead but also carry people forward and then allow them to flourish within that new environment. 

Champions Keep Everyone On Track

Creating habit champions is a highly effective strategy. But not just line managers, identify early adopters of the new from wherever they sit within the team, ignore their title or role, and make them champions to keep everyone on-track with the new, so that they can support across all the whole company the new way of doing things.
Buddy up people through change. Encourage those who have adapted early to support those who need to be nudged along the way. But don't waste energy on the change deniers (laggards), never waste good people on carrying deadwood. They won't thank you. 

Accountability Matters

Make everyone accountable to someone else for making a permanent change happen. Keeping a change alive is one of the biggest challenges a plan has, how to keep it living post the initial launch phases. Once the excitement of plans launch and big changes has happened, keeping the plan alive so that the cultural and new habit forming changes are shaped and embedded are often where the most required to deliver the plans Return On Investment ROI.  

Embed Change

Make the change permanent across the whole organisation. Plans don't work unless you make the change permanent across the organisation and re-enforce the changes you want to see and as importantly see the change that has happened. So often looking at where you have come from to where you are now and where you see teh company getting to carries your people forward. If you have made  change which can increase your processing by 25% then show them that change from where you were to where you are now and where you will get to over the full rollout of the plan as new habits are formed.  

Create An Environment Where New Habits Can Form 

To get people to stop smoking experts identified that getting people to stop for a month increases the likelihood of them giving up smoking for good six times more effectively than other traditional stop smoking campaigns.  It takes time to form a habit, and in stopping smoking giving yourself time and changing your existing habits from breaks to who you go for a work break with (don't hang out with smokers, or carry on the smoking driving habits) if you want to stop smoking. Form new habits that support you change your habits to the ones you want. 
The same is true to making change happen at work. For people to change they need to burn the old habits that are no longer wanted, but more importantly be allowed to create their new habits which fit with the new model. That requires leaders to allow people, actively encourage them to create new habits, so do not tell them what to do, give them the environment and the freedom to do it their way. Allow people to create their own new habits.   

Measure The Change

If you measure what matters, then measure how people adapt to the new normal, the change by their habit forming as they normalise to the new work environment the plan delivers. If you measure habit forming, people's ownership of the new way of doing things, how fast they take ownership and lead the change, then you will see the plan deliver the positive outcomes which your plan wanted to achieve. 
Plans don't work, but people making change does. Focus more on delivering a plan that moves people and allows people to own their plan then you will see the productivity and effectiveness that you wanted to see the plan deliver. It's not the plan that matters, it is how people react to that plan that will deliver the results leaders need to see.

1 comment:

Kafezz Cafeteria said...


I need to thank you for this very good read and I have bookmarked it to check out new things from your post. Thank you very much for sharing such a useful article and Will definitely save and revisit your site.
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