Plan, Do, Check, Act
Plan, Do, Check, Act is a very simple method of keeping yourself grounded to reality. We all do things for a reason. When we do something we expect a certain outcome. Sometimes we do something and we don’t get the result we expected. We call those mistakes. We learn from those, some faster than others. As we learn, we change what we are doing to see if that works and gets us the desired result. We keep changing until that happens or we get close enough to claim victory.
Plan, Do, Check, Act is an organized way of going through this learning process. As discussed in our whitepaper “The Plan”, your business plan needs to include specific actions and specific results that you expect to achieve by having taken those actions. The reason that this is so important is that there is money involved, in most small businesses its not going to be somebody else’s money, it’s your money! Just like when you go to the store and you put money down for a gallon of milk, you expect a gallon of milk and if that’s not what you get, you’ll go some where else. In business, when you invest your time and money, you expect something for it. If that’s not what you get, it’s time to try something else.
This type of methodology isn’t reserved for strategic plans; you should use it whenever practical to make sure you get the results you’re looking for. It is more appropriately used in longer duration projects where there is time to implement corrective action.
A simple analogy is that Plan, Do, Check, Act is the thinking person’s way of sticking to your guns. Instead of just blasting forward with what you thought was a well laid out plan. You reassess along the way. You do not charge on no matter what with blind confidence that if you just do what you said you were going to do everything will work out. On the other hand, you don’t quit at the first sign of trouble.
In the most complex applications, you would define degrees of deviation from expected results that would cause you to act. Within certain parameter, you would consider the results as expected, and outside of those parameters, you would consider the implications and reasons for them. Applying this technique to a one person organization may be as simple as asking yourself if the results you are achieving are what you expected.
Remember, surprises can be both positive and negative. It can be just as tragic to not fully recognize unexpectedly high positive results as not recognizing poor results. Take the case of introducing a new product or service. If preliminary results are exceptionally positive, then future marketing, production and support plans should be reconsidered and revised in order to take full advantage of the opportunity and not create ill will with customers that you can not deliver to or allow competitors to move in while you struggle to cope with the additional demand. Conversely, if preliminary results are disappointing, marketing plans and product design need to be reevaluated, while production and support might be delayed or scaled back.
As a professional or business person, one-person organization or multinational corporation, the issues are the same. You invest time and money with the expectation of certain results. As you implement programs, you want to be sure that things are on track. Killing an initiative that is not delivering the desired results if no corrective actions can be formulated is a smart thing to do. It is not a sign of weakness, lack of commitment or fear to stand firm. Likewise, modifying plans as you move forward to adapt to lessons learned is also smart business. Marching steadfastly to a plan blind to unexpected signals may show guts and determination, but not much business savvy.