As we had already talked about in a previous post, it’s very important to have a medium-long-term vision to know where we want to get and plannings that ensures that we will follow the path marked. But it’s not as easy as creating a plan and waiting for people to carry it out. In this post I want to share with you the problems and challenges that we have been facing and the initiatives we started to deal with them.

Are you sure we are heading to the right direction?

When planning, one of the first problems we encountered is that we weren’t paying attention to our long-term vision. In other words, we set out to propose ideas and tasks to carry out according to what, in our opinion, were the right choices. But we didn’t consider, for each one of them, how it fit with the course we wanted to follow. The obvious problem here is that we were creating plans but we had no guarantee that they were aligned with Kypseli’s path.

Our proposal to deal with this problem was to do a little introduction and take some context before making the quarterly plans. Basically, review our mission, vision, key success factors and risks map. This strategy helped a lot to put everyone’s mind in a common initial context on which to propose the projects and focus of the next quarter.

By Tim Graf on Unsplash

Day to day prioritization… without the plan

Once the planning was created and put into operation, the next challenge appeared on a day-to-day basis. Specifically, in our weekly planning sessions. As with the vision in the previous case, we set priorities without really having in mind the plan that we had drawn up. We focused on what the next step should be in our head, without reflecting on how it fit into the overall path.

Again, we decided to tackle this problem, and in this case we turned to visualization. The change was as simple, but effective, as marking strategic projects (which were directly related to quarterly planning) in a different color on our backlog. This way we could clearly see if what we were working on or prioritizing was really aligned with the direction of the quarter. Obviously, always leaving room for the unforeseen or important tasks that were not included in the plan.

In particular, a situation comes to my mind in which the importance of reprioritizing the day-to-day becomes really evident: when a new quarterly plan comes in. While it’s true that there will be points that will be aligned with the previous quarter ones, others may change completely. And this is where having the visual indicators of the strategic projects has helped us a lot. Because the natural tendency could be to continue with the tasks that were planned for the last quarter, but it is possible that those do not even belong now to the strategic cluster.

“Sincerely, I completely forgot about it”

And we get to the third great challenge we found. Even with the plan in place and our colors tagging system, and although the commitment was evident after the quarterly planning session, within a couple of days it was completely diluted. The plan was beginning to be forgotten and nobody was giving it a real follow-up, despite the fact that each project in the plan had someone assigned to be in charge.

Despite being true that thanks to the project’s color system we managed to have them more present on a day-to-day basis, there was still no consolidated monitoring of them. Specifically, in our monthly follow-up meetings it was not uncommon to find ourselves in the situation of not knowing in what state a specific project was; nor if the progress that we shared with the rest (to coordinate and organize ourselves better) was correct; or we even discovered that there were parts of the plan that were not well understood or weren’t clear. This was a very big problem since it took a month for these problems to arise.

trend graph on paper
By Isaac Smith on Unsplash

In this case, we decided to do a retrospective exercise to understand what was happening. Three very interesting and crucial points emerged.

On the one hand, the plan was not very visible and was not present in our day to day. We decided to give it visibility by adding it to our tools and our documentation index (one of our recurring access points) in an eye-catching position.

On the other hand, even making the plan a little more visible, there was the problem that, on a day-to-day basis, no one remembered to review and update it. We agreed that each person would choose the best way to create a habit of reviewing and updating, in the least forced way possible, the plan. Aiming for a daily review, if possible. In my case, for example, I decided to create a simple daily alert to remind me that I had to review the plan. After several weeks, I already do it naturally and with practically no support from those alerts.

Finally, we found a problem of feeling a lack of responsibility. I mean, there was no real sense of commitment to meeting the plans. I would say that the first turning point came when we openly talked about this issue. From an organizational point of view, we are looking for new ways to turn what we do into something truly inspiring and motivating for us. From the individual point of view, we are also working on the development of personal skills to help us to break certain behaviors, whose impact goes even beyond Kypseli. My partner Hyun has already shared with you some insights in this post and its continuation.

Summarizing a bit

My main message with this post is: do not expect that by putting a plan on paper, it will be fulfilled. That’s just a small part of the job. The next step is to make the gear that carries out this planning work in a fluid and committed way. Although I’ve told you a little about our experience, especially to avoid making the same mistakes, I encourage you to analyze, question and improve your way of executing your plannings.

And, as always, I encourage you to share your story or your opinion with the community!