I’m sure you’ve heard some variation of the 7 P’s.  They’re everywhere and even Anthony ONeal from the Dave Ramsey show tries (but fails) to talk about them.  No offense, Anthony, you try…

The 7 P’s as I was taught in the Legion: Proper Planning and Practice Prevent Piss Poor Performance.

The most common (and slightly more politically correct) variation is : “Proper planning prevents poor performance” but that doesn’t cut it.  It lacks two critical words.  If you don’t practice you will have piss poor performance.

But you also have to learn to plan properly.  And that’s not as easy as you may think.  All of you reading this know I’m a huge project management nerd.  The tools from it help me across all facets of my life and allow my to write nerdy blogs like this.

Proper planning takes time and requires input from multiple sources.  These inputs will come from all team members and more stakeholders than you anticipate.  Not all input will be valid, and quite a bit won’t make it to the final plan, but that’s ok.  Anticipate this and move on.

Initiating projects correctly and planning properly allows you to envision the outcomes of your endeavors and prepare for all contingencies.  It allows you and your team to account for hurdles that will arise during the execution of the plan. 

A great tool is the Army’s Military Decision Making Process (MDMP).  I’ve briefly outlined the 7 steps below.  If you want more information on MDMP, just go ask the nearest Army recruiter – they’ll be happy to help point you in the right direction. 

Step 1. Receipt of Mission: The task that drives the planning process is delivered.  This step should clearly articulate: EXACTLY what it is you are trying to do.  In the military we call this the mission “end-state” and is normally given to you from a higher command element.  

Step 2. Mission Analysis: This step drives the entire planning process.  How are you going to reach your goal if you don’t know what it is? This step ends with a concise mission statement that drives further planning.  It’s amazing the number of times I see plans with no clear idea of what exactly the plan is meant to accomplish.

Step 3. Course of Action (COA) Development: The team develops a minimum of three different Courses of Action (ways) to reach your desired end-state.  Each of these developed COAs must support the successful conclusion reached during step 1, and each be as unique as possible.  Think of this step as collective brainstorming. Remember, all input is valid and make sure you seek input from all team members.  Common sense dictates, but if you’ve properly selected and educated your team you should value their input.

Step 4. Course of Action (COA) Analysis: Each identified COA is assessed for strengths and weaknesses.  Again, I’ll repeat: make sure you take into account input from all stakeholders and team members.  Think of this step as your troubleshooting phase.  Make it as objective as possible and try to think outside the box.

Step 5. Course of Action (COA) Comparison: Results of the analysis are compared, and overall strengths and weaknesses determined.  At the conclusion of this phase the planning team should have reached a consensus on the preferred way ahead.  “Pros and cons” are listed and briefed for each identified COA.

Step 6. Course of Action (COA) Approval: Leadership and key stakeholders see all COAs from planning and help select the best to accomplish the identified objectives.  Many new leaders make the mistake of not taking into account the full input of the planning team and then mistakenly approve the least preferred COA.  Remember, communication is mandatory from ALL elements of the planning team.  Up, down, laterally, internally, and externally.

Step 7. Orders Production: This is the point at which the actual plan starts to develop.  Action items and roles are determined and a schedule is created.

7 steps may seem like a lot, and you may think MDMP won’t fit into your business, but give it a chance.  You won’t be able to quickly and seamlessly integrate all elements, but keep in mind: Practice makes perfect.

Also, re-read above and see how it easily and completely fits in with the doctrinal way the Institute of Project Management teaches the Project Initiation Phase (pictured below)

But like I said: practice makes perfect.  There’s a cost associated with a lack of practice and it’s expensive.  It won’t appear at once, and it may come slowly over time, but it will come.  Trust me.  

You can never (well almost never) practice too much.  In Special Forces we have several sayings highlighting the necessity of rehearsals (practice).

One of the sayings used regularly is “Train like you fight.”  Make the practice as realistic as possible and use it to ingrain the muscle memory needed to conduct the “actions on the objective” (more on this in future posts).

On my team we would rehearse.  Then we would rehearse some more.  And rehearse.  Then fine tune.  And then rehearse again…  Then the Team would make sure I was FINALLY doing it properly and we’d rehearse again…  (I only half joke…)

If you treat every practice event like actual combat – combat becomes “routine.”  Well, as routine as possible.  

Neglecting and half-assing practice are mistakes I see people (and teams) make on a regular basis. 

Everything we do as professionals requires practice and rehearsals.  Presentations, sales calls, developing meeting agendas, shareholder meetings, networking events, hiring interviews.  Everything.

Even once you feel you’ve perfected the process you need to practice and rehearse.  

Why?  To make sure complacency doesn’t set in.  We’re seeing whole industries of people who’ve become complacent in their roles fighting to keep their jobs on the back side of this pandemic.  Complacency will kill you.  If you need proof, just look around.

Another benefit of practice is that you’ll find flaws from earlier planning and will be able to pro-actively adjust.  Before it’s too late.  

Proactive adjustment is good.  Reactive adjustment often means you’re too late.  Never forget: the enemy also has a vote in what happens.

There’s no excuse for lack of preparedness in today’s world.  The operational environment is far too volatile and competitive to think we can survive on outdated planning processes and without maintaining our edge.

Once you realize“piss poor performance” can be eliminated through proper planning AND practice you will never look at planning the same way again.  

We all know failure is costly, but it’s up to you to determine how much you are willing to keep paying.