It "sorta" went according to plan... working in the spectrum.

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

We all love when it "goes according to plan", as it confirms we know what we are doing, we get to celebrate and revel in the emotion that comes with winning - There is no denying it. We are also aware, that no matter now much we plan and cover all of our proverbial bases, inevitably "things" will not go exactly the way we had wanted or planned. This, we do not love as much.

We tend to look at success of our plans as a black or white situation, where either it "went according to plan", or "did not go according to plan"; in reality however, it is a spectrum of grey that says, and I quote, "it sorta went according to plan". More often than not, we are working in this so-called spectrum, not something black and white. 

Our plans are aligned with our personal goals or agendas and fit very nicely into what we want. Where our challenge lies, is that the world is indifferent to what we want and tends to get in the way... all of those people out their with their own plans (that may not align with yours) or simply the randomness of the universe with it's laws, weather and the such. Managing your plans' expected results in an absolute sense may not be the most effective way in achieving success, but instead managing degrees of success as an on going series to achieve your plan. In fact, it is far more important that you are moving in the right direction towards your planned results - Are you further ahead this week than you were last week?

Some thoughts for working in the spectrum that come to mind - 

Have your plan written down : Yes this may be obvious, so lets just call it good housekeeping. What is important is to have measurements in place so you can determine success of your plan and activities. This way you can determine how successful you are and your status according to plan when you say, "It sorta went according to plan".

It always takes longer then you expect (Be Patient): People (as a species*) are notorious for underestimating how long something will take to do... we underestimate how difficult it will be, we overestimate our capability, we underestimate what is needed, etc. This is even before the randomness of the universe gets involved with weather delays, recessions, real-estate busts, etc. I should point out I'm a big believer in driving urgency to stimulate innovative thinking and creativity, but not necessarily as a driver for a deadline.

It is an intellectual activity not an emotional one: Working in the spectrum, as with most activities in business, is an intellectual activity... problems to be solved and opportunities to be capitalized on, that's all. Intellectual work executes plans, not emotional work. With that said, utilizing emotional intensity can help you work through challenging times.

You continually need to be moving in the right direction: Success is measured in moving towards achieving your plan and ultimately your goal. If you find yourself moving the other direction there is much work to be done. This is why you need a plan that can be measured, so you can determine if your efforts are moving you towards success.

Do not quit: It will get difficult every so often, very difficult. If you believe in your plan and your goals, you need to work through this. Sometimes it will be simple will power (emotional intensity) that gets you through the day.

Measure often: Measure how you are doing relative to the plan... more often than not you will be farther ahead than you think and you will be able to course correct faster.

Plans do evolve: This is not to say that if things get difficult that you should change your plan but rather to say, as plans are being executed, that circumstances, as well as managing the spectrum itself may require the plans to evolve. My experience in this regard is plans tend to become loftier, as playing in the spectrum offers an infinite number of possibilities to build upon.

I saw a friend the other day and asked how it was going. He said, "Two steps forward, and one step back".

To that I replied, "Sounds about right".


* artistic licence, with a splash of humour.

It's all going according to plan... but is it really?

We'll it's April 1st; not only is it April Fools Day, but this signals the end of the First Quarter (assuming you manage to the calendar year). This is very exciting day!

As an aside, April Fools Day is a day that you can play harmless practical jokes; these jokes, as well as the victims, are known as "April Fools". In theory, there are no consequences, harm or foul for your humorous activities, but remember, some people don't have a sense of humor and long memories, so tread with care. Apart from the obvious merriment, it is also a natural point in the calendar (particularly in business) to determine if you are "on target" to meet your plan objectives for the year.

There is a Six Sigma* saying that goes something like this, "In God we trust, everyone else bring data." I've always liked this saying, as it reminds us that hard, objective information lets us understand a situation and by extension, measure how we are doing against our objectives. Measuring first quarter results against your objectives gives you insight in to how you have started the year - Are you off to a great start, or are you falling a little short and need to course correct?

 Measuring how you are doing relative to expectations is key; it is a main reason why plans, goals and objectives need to be developed... as well as physically written down. It's all about having them down on paper in "black and white", and is the reason for the "M" in a S.M.A.R.T Objective**. "M" is for measurable - Measuring performance to your goals after the first 90 days -

  • Develops an objective view of how you are performing to your goals.
  • Indicates how effective your initial implementation has been.
  • Offers an opportunity to"course correct" or initiate new activities with time enough to be impactful.

Data does not feel or just is; having data and measuring it against your planned objectives eliminates these two statements: "I feel everything is going according to plan" or "I think everything is going to plan"; it allows you to say, "I know everything is going according to plan!"

If you find yourself saying "I think" or "I feel", there is a good chance you are not working from data. Data is knowledge, and knowledge is KING.*** 


Six Sigma is a set of techniques and tools for process improvement and functional excellence. It was developed by Motorola and popularized by Jack Welsh who made it central to his business strategy at General Electric; it has been adopted by many businesses to drive improvement.

** SMART is an acronym, giving criteria to guide in the setting of objectives:

  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify a target of progress.
  • Achievable – can the objective realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Relevant – is the objective in-line with your strategies and plans
  • Time-bound – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

*** I know a dear geophysicist who is probably gritting her teeth over my loose definitions of data and knowledge. My only defence... the use of artistic license to hopefully illustrate a point.