The 3 basic ways planning can fail, and how to avoid them

Dennis Sparks

In my previous post I recommended “back-of-the-envelop” planning as a way of creating energy and maintaining momentum related to important goals.

There are three basic ways such planning (and all planning) can fail—not having a clear goal that is worthy of our sustained effort, not knowing the specific next step required in the plan, and not having a fail-safe system for recording and tracking the promises we make to ourselves and others for the completion of those actions.

A worthy goal: Worthy goals create clarity and energy. They stretch us out of our comfort zones as we attempt things we may have previously thought were impossible.

Specific next steps: Most of us have fully intended to implement an important idea or skill after reading an inspiring article or book, participating in a team meeting, or having a profound professional learning experience only to discover a few months later that

we had neglected to do so because we didn’t have a system in place for turning our good intentions into actions.

A fail-safe system: A fail-safe system immediately logs the actions we intend to take—which are promises to ourselves and/or others—and provides reminders for their completion. For years my system consisted of ever-present 3 x 5″ index cards, a pen, and a box in which cards were indexed, filed, and acted upon. Today I use electronic reminders that sync among all my digital devices.

As basic as these steps may seem, they are often overlooked in the frenetic days and interpersonally complex work of teachers and administrators. And when they are overlooked, momentum is lost.

It’s also important to remember that our integrity is damaged when we don’t do the things we said we’d do. And when our integrity is damaged, so, too, is trust.

It is much easier to maintain momentum and trust than it is to restore them.

So don’t leave momentum and trust to chance—always know your next action and have a fail-safe system to ensure that you fulfill your promises.

Our colleagues and students are counting on us to do so.

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