Formalize it

Following the formal plan(Feel free to hum along with Peter Tosh while you’re reading this.)

When I was on the corporate side of the desk, I tended to place a great deal of emphasis on writing plans.

So much so, that some people still cringe when I mention that I’m working on a plan.

“Does it have an executive summary?” they ask with a sort of sick desperation.

And with good reason.

My plans have been known to inflict damage when dropped.

Because I get pretty anal about the details. In fact, I try to write my plans so that anyone–and I mean anyone–picking it up could jump right in and work on the project if need be.

I think it’s important to define the scope, roles, responsibilities, objectives, strategies, tactics, and metrics for any effort that requires more than a few people.

Well, I did.

Now that I’ve taken a few black eyes on some recent projects, I’ve changed that opinion. My opinion now is:

I think it’s important to define the scope, roles, responsibilities, objectives, strategies, tactics, and metrics for any effort that requires more than a few people.

You see, when I used to compose plans on the corporate side, I felt the detail was warranted. Because I was working with a bunch of different people in a bunch of different roles. I thought the detail had to be there, simply to serve as a Rosetta Stone for all the varied participants.

While part of the planning effort was a defensive posture, designed to defend my proposed actions, it was driven, primarily, by my understanding that–without that attention to detail–confusion and anarchy could ensue.

Well, it has become painfully clear, on this side of the desk, that that formality is required for any effort, with any number of people. Because without it, confusion and anarchy does ensue.

You can’t do stuff ad hoc. You can’t hope that one person or another will understand what it is they’re supposed to do. You can’t hope that it will somehow all magically come to fruition. You can’t ask people to, “Hey! Let’s guess what’s inside my head!”

If anything, efforts outside the corporate fold are even more confusing that those within it.

Because out here, we’re each our own little anarcho-syndicalist commune. Masters of our own domain. Or any other pithy quote from popular culture you’d like to inject here. Be my guest.

Long story short, out here we all think we know how to do things the best way. That’s why we’re out here.

And we all think about how to do those things quite differently. Again, that’s why we’re out here.

That’s why every project needs formality. To help people understand the proposed roles and objectives.

And if they don’t like it? Great! Find someone who does. Because someone will.

And working with a bunch of folks who clearly understand the expectations and objectives of their engagement, you’re going to be a lot better off in the end. Trust me.

So, whatever it is you’re doing. Formalize it. Right now. Even if it’s already begun.

About Rick Turoczy

More than mildly obsessed with the Portland startup community. Founder and editor at Silicon Florist. Cofounder and general manager at PIE. Follow me on Twitter: @turoczy
This entry was posted in Accountability, Communication, Execution, Experience. Bookmark the permalink.

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