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Last Updated on March 6, 2018

Is Planning a Kind of Guessing?

Is Planning a Kind of Guessing?

What happens before you have a big test? Someone usually asks you if you have a study plan.

What happens when you graduate from one school? Someone will want to know your plan moving forward.

At work, on a new project, bosses often want to hear about the task plan.

To many, the idea of planning is almost a superpower — it’s a concrete path to success. Without a plan, you can’t do anything.

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To an extent, this is true. But in reality, a plan is actually no more than guessing. It’s not that concrete. There’s no guarantee of success. Hundreds of plans concocted every day fail (if not millions). While planning does give you a glimpse of the future, how we think about it is misguided. We view it as a GPS that can guide you anywhere. In reality, it’s a GPS that sometimes fails to work or give you completely accurate directions.

    Sticking to the Plan Can Be Bad

    Plans reduce panic. This is a key point. All human beings have fear of uncertainty, even though uncertainty is essentially normative. When you have to do something you’re unsure of, your body reacts: sweaty palms and shortness of breath. Having a plan gives us more certainty and makes us panic less. Imagine driving in a new area. You’re nervous, and may be lost. Your friend has a GPS, though! That’s a plan. It is a direction. It will list the steps you need to reach where you’re going. Less panic.

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      Planning is good — but aiming to always stick to the plan is bad. As President Eisenhower said during his military days,

      I’ve always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

      Now think of the same situation in a car. If you’re driving from New York to Philadelphia, most people would go on Interstate 95 South. That’s the plan. But what if, on this day, there is an overturned truck in the middle of I-95? Now you need a new plan. You need to use surface roads or other routes. The plan has to change because of conditions.

      A Plan Can Become an Illusion

      To reduce uncertainties, we worry too much about covering all the bases. We then lack action around how things actually go.

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      There will always be a gap between the ideal world and reality — when we over-commit to the plan, it restricts the way we can solve the problem and neglects other possibilities. If the plan is bigger than you, you won’t be able to deviate from it and make the best decisions in an unexpected situation.

      Think again about GPS. Some faulty GPS devices will literally tell you to drive on water. That’s currently impossible unless you have a Hovercraft. So if you follow the GPS above all, you might drive your car into the sea.

        Planning is essentially guesswork

        Don’t get obsessed with your plan. Blindly following a plan that has a limited relationship with reality will only make things worse.

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        Think about jazz musicians. They perform with a plan, but also go with the flow. It’s very spontaneous and improvised by the end. It’s the same with comedy or other forms of performance art. A comedian begins his set with a plan of jokes, and the order of jokes, but you need to respond to the audience. Maybe you get heckled. Maybe one set of jokes isn’t working. You need to adjust the plan.

        Now back to that GPS example, what if your friend finds a bridge far away that can cross the water? Perfect. It wasn’t part of the original plan (which was a guess, honestly), but now you have a way to cross the water in your car.

          Improvise Like a Jazz Musician

          Planning isn’t the only way to success. Rather, a plan must be reviewed continually. Review the plan to see if it aligns with the challenges faced in reality. Don’t let a plan confine you from making decisions on what’s best for the situation. Follow the base in the plan, but improvise along the way when facing different situations.

          Especially in work contexts, we tend to think planning is the be-all and end-all. We have yearly plans, strategic plans, etc. But work conditions change all the time: employees leave, new bosses are promoted, the market you compete in shifts, etc. What then? The plan needs to change. It happens at the personal level all the time too. Don’t let the plan be everything. Be prepared to improvise. We’re all jazz musicians in a way.

          Featured photo credit: Freepik via freepik.com

          More by this author

          Leon Ho

          Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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          Published on November 19, 2018

          10 Ways to Build Positive Work Relationships and Work as a Team

          10 Ways to Build Positive Work Relationships and Work as a Team

          Behind the corporate veil, the actual members who work towards achieving the company goals are the ultimate assets.

          It is very important for every team member to maintain focused goals on a professional front, at their individual level and at the organizational level. With even the slightest discord between two employees, the entire team might suffer and have to adjust with the downsize in organizational success that they realize ultimately.

          As humans, each and every employee is bound to have different opinion and feel inclined to meet their personal goals, just as much as they meet the goals of their company. Hence, it is essential that work relationships among different employees are friendly and cordial. This will help the fellow team members to work together as an efficient team. The ultimate outcome of which will be a capable work force, poised to gather the gains of organizational success.

          Let us take a look at some of the ways to build positive work relationships and help employees work together as a team:

          1. Respect Your Peer’s Time

          No matter which specific domain you work in or in which your organization deals in, each arena entails performance of various jobs by the employees. Within this organization, there are a set of cumulative jobs which ought to be performed at a specific pace, and within a set period of time.

          Sometimes, there might also be a sequence to the performance of actions and processes, so that the next process in the sequence can be performed. Some procedures are dependent upon the performance of an action by a certain member of the team, so that the other members can carry out the subsequent steps in the sequence. The ultimate target with this planning is that the work must be completed on time and there should be no delay in meeting the deadlines which have been set for the purpose.

          Thus, in situations where you are placed in a role where other people are affected by your actions or performance, it is essential that you respect their time and effort, and ensure that the ball is not pent up in your court.

          At the same time, remember that you should make yourself available for other people, should they require your help. Ultimately, your aim must be focused at ensuring that work is not pending and you get it done like experts doing the work.

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          2. Ensure that You Are Cautious With Social Media

          With the ongoing trend in the digital space, it is easy to feel compelled and drawn towards the idea of connecting with your peers and colleagues on the social media. Although there is not much harm in the practice, it is essential to observe caution while making these connections.

          The simple reason behind this is that one wrong move can dampen your reputation or else, cause your peers to gather an incorrect impression about you.

          It makes sense to ensure what the social media policy of your organization is before treading on this path. If such policies restrict the association of fellow employees, then you must respect them.

          3. Communication is the Key

          Communication is essentially one of the most vital keys which impact how your relationships with peers and other employees are. The role of effective communication cannot be stressed enough. It is vital in attaining the goals of working together in an organization and carrying out the jobs which will help in attaining success.

          However, there is a very big danger with communication. As part of the human nature, it is easy to assume that the person ahead of us has understood what we intend to say. This might not be true at all times.

          Therefore, taking feedback is important. This will help you understand if your message has been understood in the intended manner. If the message has not reached the intended party as expected, corrective actions can be taken at the same time.

          Poor communication has the disadvantage of adding stress and distrust among fellow employees. It can sometimes causes crucial message failed to be delivered, leading to organizational turbulence, after which the blame game is hard to end.

          In order to avoid the confusion and misunderstanding, communicate through a formal chain of command and follow formal mode of communication. Thus, communicating through mails or any other formal channel of communication would be the appropriate way to communicate in order to keep everything on record. This will help in referring to the communications later, should any dispute arise.

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          4. Feedback is Important

          As important as it is to take feedback from other people, it is also important to give your feedback. It is not just you who needs feedback but also your peers, in order to understand how well they are performing.

          Your feedback will help other people progress in their work as much as it will help you progress in yours. Giving constructive feedback to your fellow peers at the right time and in the right state will help them advance, and ultimately lead to the success of the organization.

          Your co-workers are bound to value your opinion and regard you in a positive light, if you provide them with the feedback that you require from them.

          5. Make Use of Common Day Courtesies

          Greeting a co-worker may sound like something so ordinary that you might wonder how it ended up on this list. However, as long as we are talking about ways to build a positive work environment, this one cannot be ignored.

          You maybe surprised by bidding your co-workers simple common day courtesies! Being humble never hurt anyone, even if you do not exactly receive something in return.

          Moreover, you must maintain eye contact with your fellow peers if you wish to gain their trust. This will provide the necessary infrastructure to build a capable team.

          6. Get Into the Habit of Helping Yourself

          While at work, accept that you are never going to receive the pampered behaviour which you do at home. No one at your workplace wakes up in the morning and makes themselves available at the  to hear you rant or constantly answer your questions. However, you might come up with situations nevertheless, which require you to ask for help or advice.

          In this scenario, try to gather some information about your question, say, from the manuals which you receive upon joining, or from the web and equip yourself with some concrete information about the question which you may be ready to ask from someone else.

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          At least when you approach someone with your doubts, along with the information gathered you’ve gathered, they will appreciate you for having made the effort to find out the answer.

          This will make them feel important as well, answering your questions and helping you achieve your goals or tasks.

          7. Treat Everyone as Equals

          As a member of your team, it is not your job to point out who is better and who is not. Organizational politics can be a deadly game to play and as long as you are not a pro player, it is always risky to put yourself in a situation that will tarnish your image.

          Gossiping is a strict no and spreading rumours is something you must avoid at all costs. Behave in a humble manner and even if someone tries to pull you into a conversation, avoid it in a respectful manner. Do everything you can to pull yourself out of that situation.

          While talking behind people’s backs may sound like a refreshing fun activity initially, it will definitely come to bite you behind the back in the future.

          Also, it will be wise to remember that no one in the organization is permanent. People change and so can their designation. It will be better for you to keep your personal views about someone in your head.

          As long as you maintain the idea of treating everyone as equal, you will find yourself amidst a positive working environment at all times.

          8. Acknowledge Your Mistakes

          Mistakes happen and one of the more noteworthy facts about mistakes is that they can be made by anyone. The wisest thing you can do is to admit mistakes you’ve made.

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          Playing the blame game will not only tarnish the name of your peers but also your own. It is always good to avoid getting into a tiff with others. Admit your mistakes and think of remedies or solutions to fix it. For a positive working relationship with your peers, you will need to adopt this quality.

          9. Learn to Take on Responsibilities

          Passing on your work load might be required when you are overburdened with work. However, when entrusted with a job, you should try to accept it as your responsibility and avoid putting it off to someone else.

          Putting off work all the time will only end up creating a block between you and your peers, while they may start avoiding communicating with you at all. When you work in a team, your duty is to cooperate and build a positive working relationship with your teammates.

          10. Engage in a Follow-up Routine

          As a part of a team, it is necessary to express the fact that you care about your team members and you are also poised to achieve the targets set by your team.

          Whenever you get the chance, do not hold back from asking your co-workers about your work performance and whether they think there’s anything you should improve.

          Be prepared to be available to change and improve. This will go a long way in presenting yourself as a responsible and willing to learn employee.

          The Bottom Line

          These are just some of the ways in which fellow team members can build positive work relationships among themselves and work towards taking the organization to new heights. This attitude is  best to achieve overall success for the organization and create an environment of trust and honesty among the employees.

          Featured photo credit: Mimi Thian via unsplash.com

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