It happened again recently. I was meeting with a colleague and a client and got an uneasy feeling. We are supporting a key unit of the organization in creating and implementing a growth plan. We have helped the leaders clarify their priorities and direction. We have helped them identify key actions. They have even taken the first tentative, faltering steps of implementation (we all falter in the early steps – there’s nothing unusual about them!).

The uneasiness I feel is simple. I could tell from our conversation that the client thinks the difficult, creative part of the work is over and that the leaders should simply be able to implement the plan without much more support. This shows what I believe is a major fallacy of how people try to get things done:

The Planning-Doing Fallacy: Planning is the hard work. If done well, it will inevitably lead to results.

Of course planning is hard work. It’s just not the end of the hard work.

The corollary to this fallacy says that planning leads to results as long as your people are “good.” I wish it were this easy. In fact, it’s not. Many good people with good plans simply don’t get them done. The plans wind up on the shelf, dusty and in pristine condition for the next time the planning exercise comes around.

The missing ingredient? Practices! Practices are planned, repeated activities that promote visibility of the plan, accountability for results, and enthusiasm for progress. In our experience, very few people identify and implement practices on their own. Someone – a respected insider or a trusted outsider – almost always has to be consistently engaged with leaders for an extended period of time (think 6-12 months) for those practices to become habits and for those habits to yield results. Otherwise, get ready for another partially implemented plan…

We welcome you to share the best methods you have experienced for identifying and implementing practices. The more you share with the Noonday community, the more we will all gain from participating!