A "Golden Rule" for effective execution.

The following is the original and the rewrite can found by clicking here.

Recent events have reminded me of something I had learned many years ago and has made me smile at myself for such a lapse in memory. It's regarding optimizing effective execution and I am now defining it as a "Golden Rule", never to be forgotten - "Wait for two green lights and seven business days before you actually start doing anything."

The story goes something like this. -

My professional history has had me working in heavily matrixed organizations that encouraged urgency, a pro-activeness, and involvement from many corners of the organization to ensure ideas were "pressure tested appropriately". Sometimes this created a dynamic environment for getting projects off the ground, but it did increase the likelihood of overall success.

One day I was talking about a previous project with a senior leader in HR and she asked me if I had started the "new project"; I went onto say I had the green light but then it was put on hold, and it had now happened twice... I then said, "I have learned to wait for two green lights and seven business days before I actually start doing anything." To that, a director who was listening in on the conversation started to laugh and laugh; the senior leader smiled and nodded. They wished me all the best, and the project started about three weeks later... give or take.

The decision making process, particularly if the risks are high, there are competing agendas, and voices, is not a simple "go or no go".... it is more like "go, wait, no go, wait, wait, wait, maybe we will change the scope, wait, go!!!" - My experience is the larger the organization, the more true this can be.

"Wait for two green lights and seven business days before you actually start doing anything" is admittedly a little tongue in cheek, but figuratively (and sometimes literally) it rings very true as a Golden Rule to increase the effectiveness of your execution. And here is why...

  • You are reminded to actually ask the question, "Does this project have a green light and when is the start date?" If the answer isn't anything but "yes", then someone is still deciding.
  • Starting something before the project has the final green light exposes you to doing unnecessary work and the frustration that can come with wasted time and effort. Granted there can be advantage of getting ahead of the curve, but be forewarned there will be stops, starts and changes you didn't anticipate... some may make any advanced work moot.
  • The Golden Rule reminds us of patience, and as we all know, a clearer and calmer mind gets things done more effectively. 

The "two green lights" are not just to know if the project is a "go or no go", but allows you to better understand the calendar of the project and available resources; frame up your time and event schedule, and prepare for the detail... and this brings us to the "seven business days".

I have found that once a project is a go, there is always some "additional ideas and thoughts" to take advantage of what is going on. The "seven business days" allow you to work any of these last minute additions or corrections into the plan... as well as remind all the appropriate parties of the lock down date for the final execution plan. After the lock down, it's just execution, execution and more execution. 

As we know, once it's locked down, it's locked down... and only an "act of god"* can change it" - This is why this Golden Rule is never to be forgotten again... it minimizes the changes after plan lockdown that can impact execution.


*In our respective business settings, we all know who holds the "act of god" cards.