Vital Elements of an Execution Plan that Optimize Success for Leaders

Execution-Plans-Todd-Nielsen-Success-ElementsMany people have a hard time with planning, or do not realize they do… It is easy to have an idea in your head and then stare at a blank piece of paper trying to figure out where to start. This is true for personal plans and also any kind of business plans, be it Annual Plans, Quarterly Plans, etc… On that same token I have seen people who think they are good at planning, and end up putting lots of notes into a document that are cryptic and hard to figure out.

Let’s talk about some needed elements that are important for creating great execution plans. There is a lot that goes into complex planning, such as business plans, annual sales plans, and annual marketing plans (to be covered in another post), but when it comes to execution planning, these are critical elements to make sure you achieve what you are aiming for.

When working on plans, you first have to know what your goals and targets are. A plan is not meant to make people busy, a plan is to move toward something. That “Something” is usually a goal. I won’t go into S.M.A.R.T., but yes goals need to follow the S.M.A.R.T format.

I’d also add that if you can make your goals sound more inspirational it will help your execution and those of your team toward that goal. For example, instead of “Add $250,000 in Sales by June 30th,” make it something like, “Improve the financial security of our company and employees by adding $250,000 in sales by June 30th.” They why behind the latter format is much more inspirational to work towards.

When you have your goals set, then it is time to create a plan. This item now, is where I have seen a lot of people fail in planning. Each goal will usually have a lot of tasks, projects, and milestones under it. These items need to be organized and prioritized into the correct order. Once you have that, you must give assignments to each task, project, and milestone. Who is going to be in charge of completing each item, needs to be determined. Additionally, it is important to add the dependencies to each item. You might have someone in charge of a project or task, but often times they are dependent on others for information. It is important to list the other dependent people that the task or project relies upon so that they can see their part of the plan from the onset.

Every item in the plan, that supports the goals, needs completion dates. A plan where every task has a completion date at the end of the period is not a plan, it’s only a hopeful list.

Before you call your plan completed, you now need to figure out if it is even possible to achieve. Especially in business when everyone has a “day job,” it’s important to weigh the plans and goals against things that could impact availability, such as:

  • People being on vacation
  • People being at conferences
  • Other projects or initiatives that are already ongoing
  • Company events
  • etc…

Great execution plans drive execution and accountability, and they produce results. Bad plans, are hard to follow, are unclear on the priorities, and cause stress, overload, and frustration. With mediocre plans, you may still accomplish a lot, but the old quotation, “Time spent in sharpening the axe may well be spared from swinging it,” is very applicable. If good plans can reduce frustration and overload, then they also help in building a positive culture that is not overworked and stressed.

Please share your questions and thoughts about planning in the comments section.

4 Planning Lies & Why Great Leadership Hinges on Great Planning


It happens… there are some people who have a great idea and can whisk their way into a market and do much more than “make ends meet.” There are some people who can get promoted into a new position and think that their charm and charisma is going to take them far. There are some leadership teams who meet weekly, solve problems and expect massive growth from just solving problems.

I hate to break it to these people, but eventually things flat-line. This is true for businesses and it is true for our personal success and development. Planning is a very unsexy act that so many leaders get completely wrong. In my precious post, 25 Stellar Reasons Why You Need a Killer Plan, I talked about the huge number of advantages to planning. I won’t go into that. What I want to do is smash down the lies that I often hear about planning, and my take on why good leadership, hinges on good planning.

Lie 1: Planning Will Produce a Huge Document That Will Only Collect Dust

I have helped organizations with Business Plans, Strategic Plans, Marketing Plans, Sales Plans, IT Plans and more, and lots more people with personal success plan. Sometimes the plans end up being a page, and sometimes they end up being 100+ pages. There are many formats to choose from and the depth of the plan is dependent on many factors. To say that in an organization, a plan will only collect dust, is essentially stating that the organization has one of the following problems:

  1. They wrote a bad plan that can’t be followed
  2. The organization has severe execution and/or leadership problems

When planning, plans have to be created and vetted through scenarios and research. Then the plan has to be broken down into manageable and readable details so that it can be followed. A poorly written plan will end up being a waste of time in many respects, and yes that type of plan will collect dust. As leaders you need to dig deep, plan hard, and ask for help if planning is not one of your strong suits.

Lie 2: Planning Will Not Allow Me to Be Innovative and Agile

Hogwash… as my father used to say. You don’t become a robot when you plan properly. Good plans take many things into account and while a detailed plan is usually better, they should never constrain you. The fact is that a good plan will liberate you. It gives you direction, guidance, and confidence to be moving in the right direction. It gives you milestones to shoot for at intervals, and if done properly good planning will make you more agile, and give you the opportunity and resources to be more innovative, more productive, and more agile.

Lie 3: Planning Wastes a Lot of Time

Is planning a waste of time, or is not planning a waste of time? In my experience the latter is true. Leaders tend to have so much going on that they find any task outside of their core duties to be a waste of time. Pulling themselves from those daily tasks and dedicating their mind and activities toward planning for a few days, or even a few hours, seems daunting. Couple that with the plague of an inability to execute and it can be easy to give “planning” a bad name. After a good solid planning session with leaders, lasting anywhere from a few hours to a few days, I have never heard anyone tell me they felt like it was a waste of time. A plan provides structure for the chaos of leadership. With that structure, chaos can be ordered, and what was previously thought to be unachievable, can be achieved.

Lie 4: Cool People Don’t Plan

Well, I’d rather be uncool and successful, with a plan to get where I want to go; than cool, chaotic, unorganized, and no idea where I should be going. While this subtitle is written in jest, I have seen a huge negative stigma around planning. That it is hard, not fun, and a waste of time. Get over it, leaders do hard things. Planning can bring so much success, that it is worth every bit of angst, and the time spent planning, if done properly, will more than make-up for the whatever things you would have been doing during the planning session.

Great Leadership Hinges on Great Planning

Between the previous post, 25 Stellar Reasons Why You Need a Killer Plan, and this post, I hope you are now convinced on the importance and value of planning. To be a great leader you have to have the ability to plan. Business and life have so much chaos, and so much uncertainty, that leaders need to take the time to plan their success. Whether in life or business – hoping for success – is never as fruitful as planning for it.

What other lies have you heard about planning, and what is holding you back from being a better planner? Let me know any questions you have on planning, or anything about planning that frustrates you in the comment section.

Planning – 25 Stellar Reasons Why You Need a Killer Plan


Do you want to know a little secret to success? You want to know how to focus and prioritize your work? You want to know how to get yourself or your organization out of a funk, and increase success many fold over? Start planning. Planning isn’t sexy, it is often grueling, tiring, and frustrating, which is why many people and organizations, fail to create proper plans to make themselves or their business more successful. There are plans of many types. Strategic Plans, Annual Plans, Quarterly Plans, Monthly Plans, Sales Plans, Marketing Plans, Life Plans, Success Plans, Execution Plans, and the list goes on and on… In the next week of posts, more or less, I’m going to dive into this topic of planning. I’ll be sharing the elements of a good plan, how planning can save a bad strategy, the lies and myths of planning, and different types of plans, as well as what needs to be in them. Before we dive into that, one must have a desire to take themselves or their organization to a new level, they have to not just plan for success, but plan well. If you have any doubt on the importance of planning, take a gander at these 25 stellar benefits.

25 Stellar Reasons to Start Planning Now!

  1. A plan helps you stay focused
  2. A plan helps you assess our progress
  3. A plan helps to avoid unnecessary risks so they can be overcome or avoided
  4. A plan helps drive creative and strategic thinking
  5. A plan provides clarity on activities, terminology, and methods
  6. A plan reinforces your proposed budget and gives it teeth
  7. A plan helps to overcome shortcomings
  8. A plan helps to avoid over commitment
  9. A plan helps you to be proactive, instead of reactive
  10. A plan helps you say no
  11. A plan helps you prioritize activity
  12. A plan puts you in control
  13. A plan provides motivation
  14. A plan provides understanding
  15. A plan provides accountability
  16. A plan solidifies what you want to accomplish
  17. A plan provides a road-map
  18. A plan helps you understand your ideal client
  19. A plan helps you understand your market
  20. A plan helps to identify gaps
  21. A plan saves money and time in the end
  22. A plan increases execution
  23. A plan separates the kids from the adults (figuratively speaking)
  24. A plan gives you freedom
  25. A plan sets you up for success

If you still have doubts about planning, stay tuned for the rest of the week. Lots of good stuff to come.

Please let me know if you have any other great reasons why planning is important, and also let me know any questions you have on planning, or anything about planning that frustrates you in the comment section.