The Smart Thinking Book: Growth is the second of The Smart Thinking Book review series. Growth should be the primary focus of any business or individual. There are three main components to drive growth, Strategy, Plan, Execution.
What is the difference of Strategy, Plan, and Execution?
A Strategy is the general long-term direction that a business or individual aspire to achieve. A Strategy is outlined in the time frame of months or years. An example of a strategy is to gain a technological advantage over competitors in the same industry.
Plans are basically steps or mini phases to achieve a strategy. A plan is bounded in the time frame of days or weeks. Examples of plans are:
- adopt cloud technologies
- automate processes from manual labor.
Execution is the actual action that brings plans and strategy into fruition. This is the day by day tasks executed by the business or individual. Examples of these are:
- developing auto load balancing and scaling of servers
- using email and instant messaging for communications.
The Smart Thinking Book: Growth
My favorite growth advice from the smart thinking book are:
- Plans are fiction
- Don’t confuse direction with destination
- Don’t confuse movement with progress.
- When the fact changes, change your mind
Plans are fiction
Conventional wisdom has it that, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”. However, plans are like fairytale storylines. It looks good on paper. Additionally, plans are full of flashy presentation. Plans also contain detailed accounts on how to reach the promised land where we can live happily ever after. There are contingencies if we suffer setbacks. And at the brink of time, we hold it together and fulfill the planned goal to save the world! Does it strike a chord with you?
The brutal fact is plan survives until they are met with reality. Have you ever been at the end of a project? Look back to the initial planning documents. Take note of how much deviation there is between the plan and the actual course of the project.
Have you ever been at the end of a project? Look back to the initial planning documents. Take note of how much deviation there is between the plan and the actual course of the project. Too often there is an obsession in details. When events turn out differently, all planning efforts turn to waste. At this juncture, we need to add a limit to planning. A limit in terms of detail and time frame. A plan should have sufficient information on the direction of all actions without needing to deep dive into minute details. A good plan executed now is better than a perfect one executed next week.
Don’t confuse direction with destination.
More often than not, a project does not progress in a straight line from start to finish. It contains multiple changes of direction until we reach the destination. In the course of a project, we might even take conflicting directions. This is due to a common situation where “we know where we want to be, but we don’t know how to get there”.
Sometimes we reach the fork in the road. We need to explore multiple options before we choose the right path. Sometimes we reach a dead end. When an unexpected event occurs, we might need to reverse course and choose a different direction. In short, many directions are needed to reach the ultimate destination.
Don’t confuse movement with progress.
We are always busy. Being preoccupied with doing things increases the risk of:
- Being in the wrong direction
- Heading towards the wrong
Constant monitoring is important. We need to ensure that we are doing the right things as much as possible. It is not about how much you can do that gets you to your destination. From time to time, do some reflection. Ask yourself, “What is the easiest way to achieve our desired outcome”.
In a nutshell, track your action against your direction. After that, measure your progress against your destination.
When the fact changes, change your mind.
This has to be my favorite part of the chapter. This is because facts usually emerge in projects which invalidate our assumptions during project initiation. Consequently, this may cause a complete change of destination! I have been through the exact situation repeatedly!
Sometimes, there will be findings where we realize our initial destination is wrong. This is the time when the fictional plan fails the reality check. Hence all the subsequent planned directions are merely wasted planning efforts.
Adapt when new information is received. Process information into facts. Eventually, when the fact changes, don’t be afraid to change your mind.
We measure growth in specific metrics. Which means we need to focus efforts on targeted areas to achieve growth. Although having bucket loads of things done will increase your sense of accomplishment, it is the right things done that will give you growth.
Prioritizing on the to-do list is essential to growth. On the other hand, maintaining a conscious list of things to not do will minimize distractions. For example, we should have the following buckets:
- Things that you will never do
- Items that you don’t want to do
- What you won’t be doing in the near future.
The longer your anti-list, the more focus you are. At the end, the more growth you get.
That’s all for my summary of Smart Thinking Book: Growth. While I work on the next article, Smart Thinking Book: Communication, feel free to drop any feedback in the comments section.