This is such an exciting time of the year... an unconventional reason.

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

It's December 23rd and for many people it is two days before Christmas ... an exciting time, particularly if you are under the age of ten. While I very much enjoy the meaning and trappings of Christmas, there is also another reason why this time of the year is very exciting for me.

This is the time of the year when you dust off that annual plan you have made, reflect on what you've done, and celebrate everything you have accomplished over almost 365 days! Very exciting!

I suspect a number of thoughts may be coming to the forefront,

  • "This isn't very "Christmasy"".
  • "I'm not sure where my plan is?"
  • "My bad... I didn't put a plan together this year. It's in my head though."
  • "Wait a second, the year isn't over yet... why would I review my plan?"
  • "Did you get me a gift this year?"

Before you go back to those presents you have to wrap, hear me out.

At the very least this offers a reminder to have an annual plan! As the popular saying goes, "It doesn't matter which road you take if you don't know where you are going"; I wrote a post at the beginning of the year entitled "Write something down... anything." about the importance of having one - It's crucial for any success.

To the question, "Why write it down?"... so you can measure it of course. You can review everything you've done and how all of your activities align with your plan. You have to admit that it's all getting rather exciting!

For 365 days we are accomplishing things and as days turn into weeks, and weeks into months, it all becomes a blur with one thing followed by another. This is an opportunity to actually review what you have accomplished, and as experience has shown, if you take some time to review what you have accomplished, you will be pleasantly surprised. Alignment with your plan is just the formality to ensure you are moving towards your goals.

Why now though?

With a handful of days left in the year, you know what else is going to happen with 99.9 % certainty and what you have to do... trying to implement any last minute miracles doesn't constitute being part of a plan, and is most likely wasted energy. So my thinking is why not use the remainder of the year to celebrate, review the lessons learned and get ready - At 12:00am on January 1, 2016 it will be time to look forward to a brand new year of infinite possibilities... it is not the time to look back.

And what is really exciting about 2016 is that it's a leap year! That is 366 days to accomplish amazing things.

gpe

PS: Don't get me wrong, I still believe in Christmas miracles. I'm just suggesting it shouldn't be part of your plan.

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 think...it 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.*** 

gpe

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.