John Maxwell’s The Law of Navigation introduces the acrostic “PLAN AHEAD” as seen at the left. It is a handy tool for a leader to use when planning, implementing a project and it is most essential when a leader plans to implement change in an organization. Change causes friction so a leader needs a navigational roadmap to anticipate the inevitable; problems. So I want to tell you want recently happened to me and how problems can easily come even if you follow your roadmap.
I maintain a website for my accounting practice and earlier in the year I decided I would change from the hosting company I had used for several years to the company that I use for most all of my tax and accounting software. My plan was to wait nearer to the expiration of my existing contract but allow plenty of time for all the administrative stuff that had to be done so there would be no interruption of my presence on the web. Everything went smoothly as I took time to understand the transfer process, tryout the new website interface, discuss pricing and then I as do with any decision; think through the process again looking for anything I may have forgotten.
So I had progressed through the “P-L-A-N-A” part of PLAN AHEAD and on the date I had predetermined headed into action. I notified my existing hosting company that I would not be renewing and instructed my new company to start the transfer process. I got a prompt email from one acknowledging my desire not to renew and an email from the other giving me instructions on how to proceed. I followed the instructions and then waited assuming that everyone would do their job, the transfer would be made and my new website would be up and running way before my old one was shut down.
Well I had headed into action, pointed to my success and then decided that the “D,” checking on progress daily was overkill so I made it a weekly routine to go to my website to see if the new one was up. Well, here is the situation. As I write this post my new site is not active and my old site was shut down yesterday. I spent a great deal of time today making phone calls, talking to voicemail, returning phone calls, trying to find emails that were sent (my internet service provider decided today was a good day to provide intermittent service) and generally snarling at people.
So what failed in my wonderful plan? I followed the steps Dr. Maxwell taught me; I did all the letters “P” through “D.” I anticipated that it would take some time that’s why I started early. The email I received giving me the instructions on what I needed to do even indicated it may take some time to effect the transfer that’s why I waited patiently. So what did I do wrong?
Here are the leadership lessons I learned.
Don’t assume anything. I didn’t think about the fact I was dealing with two large corporations complete with rules, procedures, and multiple levels of people, products and customers. My email to the new hosting company that should have started the process didn’t. The IT guy said he didn’t see my email. I just assumed he did and trusted the process was proceeding. Remember the Ronald Reagan axiom; “Trust but verify.” Leaders should verify that instructions have been received and understood.
Always understand where your plan is vulnerable. Leaders should assess their ability to control the process. If part of your plan is beyond your control then maybe you should re-think your plan.
No news is not always good news. My review process should have intensified as the project proceeded. Leaders should always increase the level of communication when leading an important project, especially if there is a critical end date involved. The closer you get to a critical date the more frequent the communication should be.
A plan will have a greater chance to be successful if a leader understands he will have problems and provides for ways for them to be minimized. I’m confident that my website will soon be working. Check for yourself: www.mdc-cpa.com