Stick To The Plan

Sometimes you have to know when to stick at it and not give up.

Following the previous post on winging it — I wanted to provide a counter point. There are many times when you need to keep at it even when things are looking bleak.

I always liken this to baking a cake.

If you measure success after 4 hours you might have ordered, collected and paid for the ingredients, so you have no budget left. The kitchen will be a mess, and the cake won’t be ready. The cake eaters haven’t arrived and there’s still a lot more work to do on the toppings and presentation.

If you did an impact assessment at this stage then you’d say it was a categorical failure.

It’s the problem with a lot of relationships formed within funding projects. The anxiety of the potential failure drives conditions that create it.

There are so many potential breaking points for new projects. Getting a team in, building their confidence, forming/storming/norming, understanding the technical barriers, honing your pricing, external factors beyond your control.

Some of these breaking points are true breaking points, others are just road bumps. The perspective can alter depending on how close you are to the situation and how much you trust the feedback — assuming you’re giving or getting any.

It always reminds me of this quote attributed to Christopher Reeve.

Things look hardest in the impossible and improbable period where you’re not even sure yourself whether it will live up to your aims.

To overly stretch the cake analogy, it’s not always easy to work out what part of your project is the broken egg and what is the satisfied cake recipient at the end.

The trend of pivoting always feels a bit like we have an escape hatch, but you have to know when to resist jumping early and when to hold on.

It’s also important to keep stakeholders fully aware. You need to assess in advance whether or not you think you have similar attitudes and appetites for risk. Sometimes you have to accept that a project will fail if you have the wrong mix of attitudes and so it’s better to not start it in the first place.

This counts the same for cofounders, you don’t want to get so far only to realise that one of you is willing to remortgage the house and the other is still opening emails from recruiters every Sunday evening.

There are always many other ways to achieve the goal which might work out easier or more cost effective. Buying a cake, paying for someone else to bake a cake, serving a different meal. It feels like human nature to want to create things, but it can be a very efficient way to waste time and money.

If we want to prove someone will buy cakes from us there are cheaper and quicker ways to learn that, but now we’re moving away from sticking to the plan and into the territory of creating better plans which we will cover in a future post.

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Gareth I. Jones

Gareth I. Jones

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Founder of TownSq, focused on building communities of entrepreneurs, supporting startups and B Corps - businesses that are better for the planet.