When [Ford’s Scott] Monty was planning what became the Summer of Taurus campaign … he wrote a rough outline of what he wanted and posted it to Yammer. Within a week, a person from an IT group that normally didn’t work with marketing was able to show Monty a prototype he had built in his spare time … shortened what could have been a months-long process … eliminated the need for hiring expensive outside developers. 7 Lessons In Social Business, Informationweek, Nov 12, 2012.
Sharing Incomplete Plans Is Scary
I got criticized for publishing the draft of our project and product plan. “It is not complete, I can’t use it!” one manager told me. My boss said that I would only confuse people by posting daily the current version of our still evolving plan. My argument was that as of today the plan was as complete as we knew how to make it. Tomorrow it would get more detail as we learned more.
In another case, another project manager told me that I couldn’t see their plan, and that I needed to make my own plans without seeing their project plan, because they had not yet gotten their plan approved by their management. I wondered how they could get approval for a plan before they had all the inputs from everyone who needed to execute the plan?
People Appreciate The Early Sharing of Plans
However, it was not all negative feedback when I published my draft plan. One manager appreciated the fact that they could see the plan before it was completed so that they could get some of their own ideas in there. A test manager thanked me for including them in the planning up front as normally they weren’t included until much later. Finally another manager told me they kept their plan up to date as our plan was updated and this made their boss feel they were on top of what was going on.
I’m big on both brutal honesty “tell the status as it is” — not spin it or leave out critical issues — and on communicating early and often. Many folks are fearful of communicating too soon what they are thinking. They are afraid of the criticism they’ll get (yes, I get a lot when I communicate early — so be tough) or they only want feedback from supportive or otherwise safe people.
Innovative Ideas Come From Early Sharing
Instead, as the experience at Ford indicates, taking a chance and communicating early and often has always paid me dividends. The Ford example is particularly nice in that it shows the same experience I’ve had at finding folks I would never thought to have talked to and from whom I’ve gotten great and sometimes critical information. I’d like to think that in this age of hyper-social communications that we would be leaning more towards the open sharing of information.
Sharing Doesn’t Mean Giving Up Control
With that said however, I still like the following notion:
There be three points of business … the preparation; the debate or examination; and the perfection … Let the middle be the work of the many, and the first and the last the work of the few. Essay of Dispatch, Sir Francis Bacon, circa 1600.
I think Steve Jobs of Apple exemplified this well, in that the new edgy ideas are often from individuals, not from the crowd, and so we want to balance the cutting edge provided by the creative individual with the practical wisdom of crowds. Sharing early doesn’t mean we relinquish control to the crowd.
Sharing plans early can be scary but it is almost always worth the risk. If we can survive the initial pushback, then the benefits of enabling more of the team to provide good inputs only helps to ensure that our project succeeds and sometimes succeeds spectacularly well.
Could you benefit from communicating your project plans earlier and more widely?