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Some Scary Things Are Worth SharingWhen [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 have 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 upfront 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 about 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 have 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 push-back, 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?

Thank you for sharing!

2 thoughts on “Some Scary Things Are Worth Sharing

  1. Bruce Benson says:

    More comments from around the web:

    Barry Kogan • Keep all participants in sync and getting inputs as early as possible is extremly important for the project success. The changes on the planning stage are not the same as the changes during execution.

    Bruce Benson • Barry,

    As early as possible is the secret I believe. We too often don’t want to share too early because things are still changing/uncertain, but I think this is often the best time to share.



  2. Bruce Benson says:

    Comments from around the web:

    Ben Fellows • Yes, I think this is good as it starts / keeps alive an open honest track of communication. Also being able to give people ideas but let them working out the details early on balances the load of having to do it on your own.

    Bruce Benson • Ben,

    Agreed. It also leaves a better paper/electronic trail of what we did and how we changed over time. I’ve got some of my best planning tips by looking over past plans/schedules/costs of past projects.



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