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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Plans are the worst: How to spend less time worrying about perfection and more time making an impact

You can take more risks when those risks are pure in their intention. Instead of taking a risk because you want to drive revenue or improve the bottom line, take the risk because it’s what is most important to the mission of the organization.

Plans are the worst: How to spend less time worrying about perfection and more time making an impact
[Gajus/AdobeStock]

Early in my professional career, I was rooted in the belief that things should look a certain way, with no room for imperfection when it comes to launching a product or service or, for that matter, a blog post. But what I’ve come to truly appreciate in the last few years is that sometimes you just have to put it out there. But how do you do that?

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There’s a concept that goes back … well … forever. Voltaire, Shakespeare, Confucius—they all have some version of this concept attributed to them: Perfection is the enemy of good. Considering the last few years, if this idea hasn’t become a driving force in what we are doing as leaders and entrepreneurs, then we’re missing a giant opportunity.

For many years, I worked with an organization on its content strategy. For almost a decade, we kicked around a concept for a weekly video program. We spent hours and hours trying to create a sustainable content plan, the right distribution strategy, proofs of various concepts, and revenue streams. But in the end, we never launched anything of real substance in that timeframe.

We made a lot of plans. But we never made anything real. Then, the COVID pandemic hit. The primary revenue source was lost, and the organization found itself looking for a meaningful way to connect with its community.

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So, we went for it. Instead of having the perfect plan, we just started going live every week. We pulled together content on the fly and evolved the model as we went to create something the community would appreciate.

What we learned is that there is real power in the idea of planning as you go, or design thinking. It was different from throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what stuck. It wasn’t a careless, desperate act of program creation—it was something different. But why?

Easy. Because of the three Ms: Mission. Measure. Modify.

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MISSION

Our entire concept was built upon, and tied to, the organization’s ultimate mission of connecting the community and bringing people together through the power of positive storytelling. The thread that tied the industry together was at the core of the product offering.

You can take more risks when those risks are pure in their intention. Instead of taking a risk because you want to drive revenue or improve the bottom line, take the risk because it’s what is most important to the mission of the organization. Anything different from that will likely fail.

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MEASURE

You can throw spaghetti at the wall, but if you’re not counting the pieces that stay, you’ll never know where to go next. Each week we measured the reach and engagement of our effort and tracked it over time to make sure we were on track.

Measure but keep it simple. Make it super clear what success looks like in simple terms. If we’re throwing spaghetti, how many pieces need to stick to equal success?

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In our weekly video show example, it could be as simple as tracking a single metric like total video views. When we get too deep into complicated KPIs, it can very quickly and easily create decision paralysis.

MODIFY

Plans are always meant to change. You will need to iterate your way to success. Adapt the offering based on the information you have and be willing to take it in new directions.

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As leaders, we’re at a point where we have a tremendous opportunity. If we can make sure that our initiatives are mission-aligned, that we are measuring them in ways that enable us to act, and that we are willing to modify as we go to meet the needs of our customer base, we can spend less time worrying about the plan and more time making an impact.


Matt’s the Founder of MK Quinn Media and a firm believer in the power of positive storytelling everywhere.

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