This is the perfect time of year for a 4-4-4 Plan. As you roll into September, you have four months left in the year. We all have to review our annual goals, reset where needed and encourage ourselves to focus and finish strong. This previous post outlines a secret weapon we use to help our teams accomplish their goals.
Here is a great way to turn your strategic ideas into lasting action. It is called The 4-4-4 Plan.
When you have a big idea or spend some time with a small group working on strategy, the key to success is putting those ideas into action quickly. I have heard it said that what you do with an idea within 24 hours of having the idea is actually more important than the idea itself. The point being that taking action soon after having an idea is equal to, if not more important than, how big an impact the idea actually ends up having.
Each year our management team spends time working on our product and company strategy. At the end of these very invigorating and exciting sessions, we work on ways to capture our enthusiasm and creativity and ensure that we carry the ideas through to success. One year we came up with this concept of a four day, four week and four month plan. Before we left the strategy session we made ourselves write down what we were going to do in the next four days to start the ideas off and running, then in the next four weeks and four months. Here is the concept:
What can you do in the next four days to document your ideas, communicate your ideas and schedule time to work further on your ideas? In a way, this is both the easiest and hardest step. It is easy because you do not have to implement anything. It is hard because you are coming off the high of the big idea, yet confronted with the reality of all of your regular work. My suggestion is to focus on writing up a schedule for the four week and four month time frames and breaking the idea into manageable steps to be implemented.
Here is where you need to challenge yourself. You need to make something tangible fit into this time frame, yet only tackle a small part of the idea implementation. People tend to try and do too much too soon and then fail and are discouraged. Or they see the entire thing as too big and do nothing tangible in the first month, thus making the idea ineffective. What you are looking to do in the first four weeks is identify the first thing to be completed and build a plan to get that one thing done in the first four months. This is the foundation of your idea that the rest of it can be built upon.
Some ideas take years to implement. In this step you are looking to implement something of lasting benefit so that you, your team and your clients can get results from the idea. This brings us back to the importance of the four days. Coming up with big ideas is fun. What you do in those first few days after having the idea is enormously important because it is the framework for your implementation. And your implementation success is based on calibrating how much you do in four weeks and showing some results within four months. You do not need to have everything done in four months, but you need some result and some benefit coming out in four months or the idea risks being abandoned or preempted by other priorities.
We do not have a set schedule as to when to use the 4-4-4 Plan. It is more of a gut feeling as to when you need one. They are best when they are handwritten on a blank sheet of paper and then kept for reference. When you can sit and write down how your mind sees a big idea coming to life in four week and four month steps, you have a real solid shot at having success.
We have all met people who have long lists of wonderful ideas. We have met fewer people that routinely bring ideas to lasting success. Use the 4-4-4 Plan to help you bring your big ideas to life.