Imperfect Plans, Violently Executed
Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. -Iron Mike 🥊
Earlier in my career, I believed that you had to have the “master plan” as a leader. That I had to think of every problem, every possible outcome, and every roadblock before they happen.
Now, don’t misunderstand me — thinking about strategy, cause & effect, etc is valuable in a business. But it has diminishing returns after a point.
Why? Because we don’t know what we don’t know…yet!
What I mean by this is that you CAN’T see all the angles until you start doing the work! No matter how hard you think, something will inevitable come up that you didn’t think of, and you’ll end up changing your plan anyway.
So…even as someone who loves to think and plan, my approach has changed.
I’m officially all-in on creating “imperfect plans, violently executed” — and keeping my eyes open to the things that I learn along the way.
Here is a quick set of bullets to talk about how I do this:
#1. Quantitatively define success. This is not optional.
The whole “imperfect plan” thing devolves into “doing random shit” if you don’t know what success looks like. Typically it’s a metric of some sort — interviews booked, leads generated, sales made, etc.
Every success metric should be mapped out into a funnel that tracks activities and results — I’ve got a post on this here.
#2. Pick an approach and do it as if you KNOW it’ll work.
If you halfheartedly “try something out”, it’s generally doomed to begin with. If your plan is to work on prospecting candidates for a job via LinkedIn, you can’t send 5 messages and then say it doesn’t work.
If your plan is to prospect on LinkedIn (for instance), spend a few hours learning EVERYTHING you can about it, time block an hour a day to do only that activity, and do it for a few weeks ruthlessly — tracking it (see #1), adjusting to improve the funnel metrics, and seeing what you learn.
#3. Keep your eyes open for the next opportunity.
Taking ACTION will show you the next thing you need to solve. And again, and again, and again. Just make sure you’re looking for it.
When you finally achieve the goal you set out to achieve, you’ll likely realize that success took a circuitous path, and that you made some seemingly-insignificant decisions that drove outsized results.
The hardest part of all is doing less “planning” based on hypothetical conditions that aren’t even real…and more actual work to illuminate the real problems that you’ll need to solve.
You’re not sprinting through the forest at night. You’re using a flashlight, going from one tree to the next, stopping to look around, then moving again.
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