Plan your work . . . work your plan

Plan the work and work the plan.  -Vince Lombardi

When we sold our consulting firm in 2000 and I retired to France I decided to write novels.  Thriller novels to be exact.  After all, I had time on my hands for the first time in decades and I had always wanted to write.  My mother was an English teacher, as well as a music teacher, and she instilled in me at an early age a love for reading and writing.

When I announced to a few of my former colleagues that I was going to write novels, they all said, very loudly, “What the *!#$ do you know about writing a novel?”. My reply was simple.

Plan your work and work your plan.

This is the essence of my consulting advice to CEOs who are struggling with strategy execution and business delivery.  Develop a plan, and work the plan.  I’m now on my fifth novel, plus having gotten back into full-time consulting. (If you like good historical and political thrillers take a look at my novel website:

This phrase is easy to say, but not so easy to execute. There are two critical parts to this approach, not just one.

Plan your Work. Many people are great at planning (however most confuse dreaming for planning).   They make lists, they develop an outline, they produce a project plan, they hire McKinsey & Co to develop a strategic plan.  The binders are impressive, filled with schedules, charts and graphs of future earnings. The Gantt charts are colourful and complete.  The outline fills five pages, with annotations. Job done?

Not by a long shot.  The second important part is “Work your plan”.  And that’s where the discipline, focus, ability to say “No” to new ideas that deviate from the plan, and a strategy roadmap come in to play.  These are the elements of successful implementation.  Because unless you diligently work your plan, relentlessly and ruthlessly, day-to-day events will intervene.  In the corporate setting it’s things like customer complaints, quality workarounds, new customer demands.  All are important operational issues, but they will eat up all the time and resources you throw at them, leaving little time for delivering on the longer term, critical strategic requirements that move the organisation forward against the competition. The solution to keeping your focus on strategic issues is to have a clear joined-up roadmap for strategy delivery and to have a regular governance cadence to keep the focus on strategy delivery.

It’s the same at home.  Life’s little daily issues can wind up consuming an entire day, or a week or two if you let them.  And that plan of yours is now way behind schedule and the inevitable urge to drop the whole thing grows stronger.  To work your plan it is important to have a roadmap of activities, a schedule of disciplined times in which you diligently make progress daily.  Post your “roadmap” on the wall in your den or study, set regular times to work your plan.  Work your plan in concentrated but short bursts.  Don’t expect to be left alone for several hours, life isn’t like that.  But devise a daily schedule that works for you and discipline yourself to stick to it.  And guess what?  You will see progress and then that progress will motivate you further.

A while ago I wrote a blog about Duke the Cat and focus and discipline.  It is worth a look as you get ready to Plan your Work and Work your Plan.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

E |      T | +44 207 584 3774      M | +44 7833 493 999

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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