The solution to avoiding firefighting and minimizing re-work is planning.
This includes creating strategic and tactical plans for each year, month, week and day.
The difference between strategic and tactical planning is this: strategic plans outline WHAT you are going to do, whereas tactical plans address HOW you are going to do it.
Most organizations would have a mixture of strategic and tactical plans for the entire organization. Often these plans translate into strategic and tactical plans for each major business unit within the organization but that’s where it usually stops.
It is almost unheard of for individual employees to have strategic or tactical plans for their role.
Yet this is exactly what needs to happen in order to avoid firefighting and minimise re-work.
Of course, on an employee level the strategy is usually defined by the job description. I say usually because often job descriptions are vague and blurry.
The tactics of a job, however, are most often re-invented by the employee on a daily basis. People turn up for work with only a vague idea of what exactly they are going to do all day and what the priorities are.
Throughout the day they often get interrupted and side-tracked, ending up doing things of low importance and low value.
A lot of time is lost in addressing the same issues over and over again, each time re-negotiating the rules and re-inventing the wheel. People are too busy putting out fires to even think of what could be done to prevent the fires in the first place.
Most of these issues can be dealt with by thinking ahead and preparation – in other words: planning.
One of the major advantages of planning is the separation of thinking from doing. This is why we invented fire drills – to think through and practice what we’re going to do, so that we don’t waste time in the heat of the moment.
The same applies to our everyday activities at work: what is it we’re supposed to achieve by the end of the day? How are we going to respond to interruptions? What emergencies may distract us and how are we going to handle them? These questions need to be asked and answered on daily basis by each employee in the organization.
The approach I’ve taken over the last five-six years is to set aside time each year to create annual plans for myself, my businesses and any role I may be performing for an organization I happen to work for.
I think through the issues, consider what could go wrong and prepare contingency plans.
Each month I set aside a couple of hours to plan the month ahead. I syphon some of my annual goals into the monthly plan and break them down into weekly chunks.
On Friday afternoons I spend about 30-45 minutes planning out the next week, taking in consideration what’s going on around me and what is likely to affect my performance and productivity throughout the week.
I’m sometimes content to work off my weekly plan, provided it is constantly in front of me so I glance at it several times every day. However, often, particularly when there are deadlines and other pressures, I go even further and plan out each day the night before. It only takes 20-30 minutes.
I found that when I plan the next day and then sleep on it, my subconscious mind continues to work on the plan through the night and I find myself far more productive the next day.
I used this system with my own employees and I help other organizations to implement it utilizing my Focus, Plan, Achieve methodology.
The results are clarity, increased productivity and improved performance across the entire organizations.