Monday, March 23, 2009

Hope and Plan

It's really easy to want some future state to be, and to dream about how great it's going to be. "We're gonna have a plan to fix any customer issue within 24 hours!" "We're gonna accept every story within a week." "I'm gonna get my commute to under 45 min."

Those are great. And if we stop there, what we have is hope.

If we really want it to happen, though, we need hope with a plan.

A plan is what will bring you from merely hoping for something to actually seeing it happen. Even if it seems silly, you have to have an idea of how you're going to get to your particular future utopia.

So what distinguishes a plan from some lightly-defined hope?
  • A plan describes what will be done and what will be sacrificed for achieving the goal, whereas hope just describes interim goals. For example, if the goal is to accept stories within a week, hope would say, "we're gonna spend 2 hours a day on story acceptance", and a plan would say, "we are extending all our current due dates by 20% to allow for 20% (each person for two half days a week) of time to be spent on story acceptance."
  • A plan describes who will do things. "We" rarely do anything at all (there's somehow a gap between each member of that "we" into which the group effort falls). Instead, Bob does something, or at least "each member" does something. Hope alone is generally something "we" can do!
  • A plan has measurable milestones. We can see if we're making progress or not with a plan. With hope, well, we're either in that future or not.
Hope is great, and sometimes hope is all that a goal really merits. But if you want to improve your odds of actually reaching that future happy state, try turning your hope into a plan.

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