I began to think about a better planning method about 10 years ago with a very long-standing client whom I loved. It went something like this:
Her: Remind me again why we used that particular language?
Me: That was years ago. I recall we went back and forth on it, but I’d have to pull my notes to refresh my memory.
Her: Yeah, I’d have to do the same. What the holy hell! I can’t remember why we made that decision. I’m sure we were full of strategic notions at the time…
Me: … which are all suddenly not so obvious!
OK, two things: one, this example might make you think I was a bad consultant. But two – and I’m going with number two – is that you know this happens a lot to people who are very good at what they do. When you are in the weeds on an initiative, drowning in detail, or when you are working on a cohesive team and operating on the same wavelength, decisions are made, and they are spectacularly RIGHT!
… Until time passes, or team members involved in the decision leave, or priorities shift but past decisions are not reviewed and validated through the lens of those new priorities. Then, we might be looking into the past, scratching our heads.
From that one client conversation, I vowed NO MORE! I would always list the rationale for any decision made, and record it for posterity.
In all planning, asking why is powerful.
That one practice has saved my professional life more than once. So much so, that I implemented it company-wide. We had no more meetings without first listing rationale for why we needed to meet. We had no more decisions until we could articulate the rationale for how it supported business objectives. And that included our clients.
The D.A.R.T. Method(TM) was born.
I created the D.A.R.T. Method for planning and decision-making because I hated wasting my time on busy work that wasn’t productive. So I made some changes. For example, I started to accept meeting invitations only if people told me what we were going to walk out of the meeting with. We had to agree on a decision to be finalized, a final draft document to be produced, a new contact to be made, whatever. (I did the same, in turn.)
Here’s how it works. You start with Defining a Desired Outcome. Then:
- Make decisions toward your desired outcome.
- Determine who will have the authority to execute.
- Describe rationale for why those decisions put you closer to the desired outcome.
- Set a timeline.
The D.A.R.T. Method, as I explain the 2 minute video below, is different from traditional SMART goals because you will be performing through the lens of empowerment (proactive decision-making) and aligning why these decisions get you closer to your desired outcome (rationale). Everything must clearly be linked to why and how it gets you closer to your desired outcome.
Often, as a result of this deliberate planning exercise, you may call into question activity that you originally took for granted. You may also find activity on your radar that wasn’t there before. (Both good things!)
I will showcase the application of this planning method with examples that tend to give many people some heartburn. For each example, you can probably think of additional decisions supporting the desired outcomes than just what I listed.
Planning Example 1: Krista needs to make a presentation at a large industry conference.
Desired outcome: To be memorable in a sea of typically dry industry presentations.
|Poll colleagues||Krista herself||Begin a short list of things for her to try out that will have impact but still resonate with her intended audience in her industry circle.||Monday, June 2|
|Outsource slide development||Outside agency||Spend time experimenting with presentation tactics and strategies, rather than spend many hours making the slides look decent, which is not her forte.||Monday, June 9|
|Try out new things in a safe environment, ask for “radical candor” in feedback||Krista herself||By lining up “friends and family” in her organization in 2 separate casual lunch presentation practices, she can try out her new strategies. By getting feedback, she can either opt out of a new approach, refine it, or keep as is.||Monday, June 16|
Notice in this example how Krista strategically focused on her desired outcome by outsourcing the slides. If her desired outcome had been to master PowerPoint features for a dynamic presentation, Krista would have made different decisions.
Planning Example 2: Anja is leading a new project at work that she has never done before.
Desired outcome: Manage anxiety and uncertainty in being able to perform well.
|Identify what she’s most scared of||Anja||Being honest about fears allows Anja to identify what is irrational (to her) and can be largely put aside vs what is rational (to her) and requires plans in place to address.||11/3|
|Get clarity on expectations and what success looks like||Anja and supervisor||Mitigates uncertainty about how “doing well” is defined||11/7|
Notice in Anja’s example that there is both inward-looking work here (first decision), and outward-looking work (second decision).
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