The Second Step

There is an insightful Seth Godin post on 7 August.  (I suppose that is redundant)

It addresses how to begin the planning of a project.  Seth suggests that the planner create three lists.

  1. Everything that must be true for this to be a good project
  2. All of the skills required that you do not have and must acquire or hire
  3. A list of everything you are afraid of.  Things that are essential but beyond your control.

I doubt many doomed projects would begin if these lists were even partially complete.  With many projects, enthusiastic people start before they are ready.  Both time and resources are wasted.  At the other end of the extreme are the people who just drift along with life.  Again wasteful because resources and time are not focused.  The middle ground is to make proto-decisions.  Ones that explore and provide useful information.  Cheap, easy to measure and to reverse when faulty.  Armies send out scouts.  Same idea.

Planning involves gathering the things you know and can acquire and connecting them to the things you must have to achieve your goal.  The space between is a way to think about risk.  Clearly risk is greater if you do not know what you need and what you have to bring to bear.

No one ever gets it all right, but planning can minimize the opportunity for misfortune to arise.

For young people the creation of a list of strengths, skills and principles will be useful.  List 1) above will always be chosen from that list.

While more depressing, a general list 2) will also be useful.  Things I do not possess with a list of people or methods to overcome the shortfall.

Fear arises from loss of control.  It’s there always, but an effort to understand why it is fearful is helpful.  Every fear you can move from list 3) to list 2) is productive.  Many fears are present solely because we lack understanding of the question and underestimate our ability to respond to it.

The list idea is new to me and it is a good exercise.  For many years I have relied on a simpler idea.  Hopes, Fears and Expectations.  While addressing similar ideas the listing idea is more useful for specific projects.

It might be possible to use the list idea for an end of life distribution plan, or maybe even a retirement plan.  It may be too difficult for a life plan. Considering the pieces would be useful even if they could not all connect to solutions.

The key is to start.  Part of the planning process is filling up the lists.  You will be surprised how many solutions appear as you go along.  There will be an obvious point along the way where you can see the general solution and can begin to implement.

Subscribe to the daily MoneyFYI article at moneyfyi.wordpress.com, Follow on Twitter @DonShaughnessy or Contact: don@moneyfyi.com  

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.

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