This is the time of year in most organizations where decisions are made that affect what will be done and what will be funded in the upcoming year. Learning to compete successfully for these resources can make or break your career.
To win in the fight for support and resources, we should take a page out of the Steve Jobs playbook. He once famously said, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
My experience says this is true. And when they do know what they want, they often don’t know how to get it.
To up your game as a change maker (and get the resources you need to make things happen), learn to show people what they want and how to make it happen.
One powerful tool for doing this is an old school tactic. It’s the written plan.
You remember the idea of a written plan right? It may have been a while since you’ve made one, but you have the skills. In high school, you had to write outlines for your term papers. In grade school, you probably had a project at one point where you had to plan an imaginary trip. These same skills can help you win resources and support in your work today.
Before I get into how to use plans as tools of influence, let’s first refresh on what makes for a good plan. It’s simple and format really doesn’t matter. A good plan has four elements:
- What needs to happen?
- Why is it important?
- What impact will it have?
- How will you make it happen?
- Steps to be taken
- Resources needed
- Decisions to be made
Perhaps in a future post I can dig deeper in these elements, but for purposes of this post, if you create a written plan that addresses these questions, then you are off to a great start (even if it’s not perfect).
Plans are powerful. And they are great tools for influence for any change maker. Here’s why.
- Having a plan puts you in the driver’s seat. Most people don’t put nearly as much thought into planning as they should. They are addicted to action so they skip over the planning part. When you show up with a decent plan to any meeting where a decision is being made or problem is being solved, you will take control of the conversation. If they want the outcome your plan delivers, they have to react to your plan. The plan makes them articulate their agreement or disagreement. And if they agree with your plan, they have to decide whether or not to give you the resources to get it done.
- Having a plan makes your ideas or resource requests harder to dismiss. When I created budgets during my corporate years, every dollar was connected to some type of plan (and as a result some type of desired or strategic outcome for the organization). When the CFO showed up with his red pen looking to make cuts to my budget, my plans made him confront the outcomes he asking to cut or delay versus just simply making a number smaller. This made my budget much harder to cut. And, it helped me avoid being caught in circumstances where my resources were cut but I was still expected to deliver the outcome attached to those resources. The plans made all the difference.
- Having a plan shows that you are serious and invested. If you are thoughtful and intentional in the development of your plan, it shows a deep level of commitment to solving the problem or seizing the opportunity at hand. When executives see this kind of work, they will typically make time to listen (at least for a few minutes) because the plan is a signal that this is important, at least to you. If your plan is connected to an organizational need or problem, you only need a few minutes of their attention to get the ball rolling in the right direction.
- Having a plan moves the conversation into active problem solving. There’s nothing worse that sitting in a room full of people who are talking in circles about what to do next. And yet this describes far too many problem-solving meetings I’ve sat in throughout my career. When the problem is known and accepted, putting a plan in front of the group moves people into action. Instead of speculating or rehashing the problem, they can react to the plan you’ve proposed. Maybe they like it and can offer some ideas to build on it. Maybe they don’t like it and can offer some ideas to improve it. Or maybe they disagree with your entire approach and can offer another way to solve the problem. Regardless, the plan moves the room into active problem solving which accelerates progress towards a real solution.
If you want to move the needle and make things happen, make the time to form and write down your plan. That investment of time will pay off in a big way.