19 Apr The Power of Game Planning
A leader with a goal but no game plan is like an archer with a target and no arrows. A game plan is a leader’s strategy or map. It provides guidance toward the goal. It provides the very way to realize the goal. It is here that the leader’s creative powers can flourish. It is here that a leader develops the ability to think strategically, brainstorming on the methods of attack. It is here that experience and learning can be big enablers. If Hunger provides the “why,” the Goal is the “what,” and the Game Plan is the “how.”
Game Plans Are Set in Sand
Strategic thinking is important and putting together a well-thought-out plan for accomplishing a goal is vital. But a leader must never allow the game plan to become a masterpiece of its own. The game plan must be fluid, adaptable to changing conditions, and able to be scrapped at a moment’s notice if it’s not working. No plan entirely survives its collision with reality. As mentioned above, often it is necessary for a leader to develop multiple game plans over time before a goal can be reached. The goal is set in stone; the plan is drawn in sand.
Game Plans Drive the Prioritization of Tasks
One of the biggest advantages of a game plan is that it drives the process of setting priorities. A leader must think through and understand the question: What’s important next?
A teacher sought to demonstrate for his students the impact of prioritizing work. He took a glass jar and placed it on the desk next to some large rocks, some smaller rocks, some pebbles, some sand, and a pitcher of water. He informed the class that the object of the exercise was to fit as many of the materials on the desk into the glass jar as possible, providing the densest combination. He first placed as many of the large rocks into the glass jar as would fit, asking the class to confirm that the jar was “full.” Next, he placed the smaller rocks into the jar around the larger rocks until the class verified once again that no more rocks could be placed into the jar. Then he crammed the pebbles into the jar around the other rocks until no more would fit. Next, he poured the sand around the various-sized rocks until no more would go into the jar. Finally, he poured the pitcher of water into the sand in the jar until the jar was entirely full of matter and not one more thing would fit.
“Now the jar is full,” said the teacher. “If we had not prioritized what should be placed first into the jar, we would not have fit as many of the items into the jar, and we would not have obtained the densest result.”
“I don’t get it,” said a student. “How does that teach priorities?”
“Because,” answered the patient instructor, “if we had started with the smaller items such as water or sand, there would have been no room for the bigger-size rocks. The projects we encounter in life must be handled in the same way. Put the big rocks in first and then work downward toward the smaller things.”
That is the lesson of priorities. Game planning for a leader is the step where this takes place. Without it, the leader will spend time on things that are “good” to do or even “great” to do but not the “best” to do. A leader knows to put in the “big rocks” first.
Ed Koch, author of the 80/20 Principle, writes, “The 80/20 Principle asserts that a minority of causes, inputs, or effort usually lead to a majority of the results, outputs, or rewards. Taken literally, this means that, for example, 80 percent of what you achieve in your job comes from 20 percent of the time spent. Thus for all practical purposes, four-fifths of the effort—a dominant part of it—is largely irrelevant.” Over time, the leader’s ability in this area compounds toward excellence or devolves toward mediocrity. Remember, a leader is most valuable where he or she adds the most value. Andy Stanley, author of The Next Generation Leader, wrote, “The ability to identify and focus on the few necessary things is a hallmark of great leadership.”
Game Plans Are Developed at the Macro, Mini, and Micro Levels
A close relative to the topic of prioritization is the classification of tasks or objectives into different levels based upon their size or importance. It is helpful for a leader to understand that issues can be classified into at least three categories.
The Macro level is the overall top layer. It is comprised of all the big stuff, the high-priority stuff, or the issues that will have the biggest impact for a given task. The Mini level is just below Macro, where issues are smaller and not quite as important. Finally, the Micro level is the tiniest detail level where the issues are the smallest.
It is important to understand how Macro, Mini, and Micro fit together with the idea of priorities discussed above. It’s important for a leader to follow a set of priorities that are arranged according to the principle of “What’s important next?” Associated with each of these priorities are macro, mini, and micro issues. These two concepts together show the leader exactly where to focus to have the greatest impact on reaching the goal. A truly effective leader structures a game plan that starts with the highest priority task and the macro issues associated with that task. As these are completed, the leader works on the next lower-priority tasks and on issues related to those tasks that go from macro down to micro.
It is rarely necessary that all the priorities be handled or all the issues worked out. Often a goal can be reached before that level of detail is necessary. For this reason, it is important for leaders to review their priorities and issues continually to have the greatest impact possible as conditions change and progress is made.