If you've decided to take action and make some changes in your personal work habits or in your work team to improve productivity, start with the end in mind. That's straight from Covey I know, but it's the right message. What is the desired end state, and how do we get there?
Americans, and business executives especially, are Now-Now people. What I mean by that is that they want action now, and want the results of that action now. While I am all for doing something, our first steps should be to consider what our end goals are and to develop a plan of action for what it will take to achieve our goals. Most people I work with understand planning to be the act of writing down a few actions on paper, so that they can get approval to move ahead. Usually, they have no interest in the plan and built it only to get approval for the funding or the OK to move ahead.
Sometimes we need to slow down to speed up. A good, well thought out plan will do more than simply provide a road map. A good plan will anticipate pitfalls and roadblocks and setbacks. These challenges will present themselves as you begin to implement the plan. A good plan will provide for alternatives courses of action as these challenges are met. A good plan will identify other resources to use or to leverage as our existing resources leave to take another job or prove uninterested in change. I guess what I am trying to say is that a plan considers more than just what we should do if everything works perfectly to our advantage over the life of the project. Our planning often takes on a "perfect world" feeling in which nothing ever goes wrong and no alternatives need to be considered.
As an example, I worked with some software developers located in Israel. We had a significant software release due in the late fall, and the Jewish faith celebrates a number of major holidays in the early fall. When the initial plan was built to determine when the product development would be complete, the software team lead (an Israeli) did not factor in any vacation time over a period which would be akin to Christmas in the US. Furthermore, in his plan, he made no allowance for regular vacation time or for anyone getting sick and needing time off. While we were able to modify the schedule somewhat, his assumption of a "perfect world" when planning left us almost six weeks behind on our delivery of the software. His expectations and his planning missed the fact that people and circumstances change, and we need to account for that possibility and consider the consequences in our planning.
What do your plans look like? Are they based on a "perfect world" scenario or do they consider the challenges and problems that are likely to arise? Do you use planning to simply move along to the next step, or to fully consider all the opportunities and challenges that will arise during the project? Take the time to do the right planning now, or pay the consequences down the road.