You’ll find this works in most situations. Typically, there is an ideal. It may even be attainable. People may not be clear about how long it will take to get there, but they are enamored of it. Most teams, left to their own devices, will ruminate on this project of getting to the ideal for weeks, months, even years.
On the other hand, there is the attainable. The immediate opportunity. The low-hanging fruit. This is not a bitter fruit at all, but typically a quite tasty variety at the peak of ripeness, and within easy reach. Yet people will sit under that tree and plan for next years harvest and let those cherries rot on the vine.
Perhaps that’s what Newton was doing when the apple fell on his head.
Take a quick, hard look at your situation. It is possible that these “short-term wins” will be a distraction that further delays the other much more important achievement? On the other hand, it’s also possible that the business can grow fat and strong and successful on meal after meal of low hanging fruit, picked off daily?
This is one situation in which, when faced with a choice between two compelling options, the right answer is often “Both!” But here’s the thing, you must manage to move them both forward simultaneously. For the low hanging fruit, you need one kind of planning. For next years harvest, you need another. The first should be driven by a ruthless calculation of time efficiency. You need to create a something that is better than a nothing. And you need to do it in the shortest time and with the least effort possible. You can always improve on it after that. Now go!
When it comes to planning those future harvests, your team must shift to the other side of the brain. How good can this be? When you get into the stage of planning for implementation, you can go back to the other style of planning. But, in the conception phase, make sure the team takes the time to get it right. Just make sure that that time is not obstructing progress toward harvesting the low-hanging fruit.
Find ways to bring this concept of Two Track Planning dramatically to the foreground for your teams. Run the schedules side by side on the same page. Do the same with the plans. Celebrate two-track planning. When you see a plan for just one thing, ask about the other track.
This is a simple trick learned from successful entrepreneurs. For the entrepreneur, money never just appears from nowhere to finance the pursuit of your dreams. You must earn it, raise it or pick it yourself. So you get good at paying for tomorrow’s possibilities with today’s opportunities.
Whenever people tell me – and they do quite often – that they have no time to think strategically because they are too busy getting things done, I have some trouble feeling much sympathy. Strategic is the way you approach your job and your opportunities in action every day. Strategic is what you do with that pile of work in front of you.
The pressure of living in the real world means you’re living in the real world. Since you are working on solutions for people in the real world, this ought to be a strategic advantage. Two Track Planning is one great way to be more successful today and more strategic about your future in a time-starved world.