Everything in life goes through a process. Some are refined and detailed, while others are flying by the seat of their pants. And while the end result is really all that matters, sometimes the journey there can be much quicker, easier, and less stressful.
Orrin Woodward, INC. Magazine’s #20 leadership expert, has a term he has coined called “PDCA.” It stands for Plan, Do, Check and Adjust. The first time I heard this phrase I felt like it was a no brainer. And then I started digging further into it and realized how crucial this process is to achieving success. I found out that most people that fail to hit their goals are getting hung up on at least 1 of these steps (if not 2 or 3 of them). Let’s break down each section a little more:
Plan – A lot of people get confused in thinking that their goal is their plan. However, a plan is a specific intent or path in which how you will reach that goal. Many people will set a goal without a plan of action on how they will achieve it. I would venture to guess that there has never been a business or organization succeed without a plan (if I am wrong, please comment below, I would love to research it more!). In fact, if you walked into a bank to get a business loan without a plan to give them a return on their investment, they would laugh hysterically in your face! Treat your goals, no matter how small or large, with the same sincerity you would in starting a multi-million dollar business.
Do – I think this step is the one people struggle with the most, and that is the action step. It is very easy to make a plan and set a goal, but putting the plan into action can be the biggest hang up to reaching one’s success. You can have the best plan in the world, but without going out and putting it in motion, you can never reach your end result. In Napolean Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich he talks about getting a burning desire. The only thing that will motivate someone to do something out of the norm or out of their comfort zone is to find a reward that’s worth making you uncomfortable for.
Check – The evaluation is critical to the next step. This is the process of checking to see where your strengths and weaknesses are, and what is your tripping point in reaching your goal. The tripping point usually lies in the step before where you are striking out. For example when making a sales presentation to a potential client, if you realize you are hitting a wall and can’t get past the presentation, the problem may lie in the phone call or contact to set up that meeting, not necessarily your presentation (although that can still be the case). For those that are failing at the “do” stage, the check portion is very simple: go and “do” next time around and then you can check your results with your plan!
Adjust – After going through this process, the most important thing to do is take what you have learned and adjust your plan for the next time around. Everything in life is a learning experience, if you view it as such. For example, if you are creating a budget for your finances and after 1 month of tracking your spending you realize that only spending $100 a month on gas isn’t feasible, you may want to adjust your budget for the next month and see if that will work better.
This PDCA process is a non-stop process. I had the pleasure of seeing Bill Lewis, a co-founder of LIFE Leadership, speak in St. Louis two weeks ago, and he said “Everything in life is a PDCA. It’s a constant process of growing and improving.” Bill recently told a story about a basketball series he played with some of his leaders and how after every single game each team would “PDCA” that game to make adjustments for the next time they played. At one point they started “PDCA’ing” during the game instead of waiting until after. He really got my mind thinking and realizing that this concept does apply to everything in life. Whether it’s a sports game, a diet, a business, finances, whatever goals you set out to reach, this will apply for.
As I wrap this up, I challenge you to find one thing you want to improve in and set out on a process to PDCA until you achieve that result. Maybe you want to get back into reading more often, getting in better shape, improving your finances, growing your business or professional career, being a better parent or spouse, or hundreds of other areas. Set a specific goal of what you want to achieve and when (set a reward for when you achieve it for extra motivation), go out and make it happen, track your progress, and adjust it for the next cycle. A wise mentor once told me, “Your goal is set in stone, your plan is written in sand.”