Act – Learn – Adjust Because Perfect Plans Don’t Exist

  • Home
  • /
  • Blog
  • /
  • Act – Learn – Adjust Because Perfect Plans Don’t Exist

It's time to Act—Learn—Adjust! If you create a clear THERE, clear HERE, and the PATH with a Personal Planning Form, that is a great first step when you want to get things done. You have some thoughts on how to get THERE. So, execute your plan.

THP helps you create a plan, but you do not know if your plan will work. We like to say, "Good plans degenerate into action at some point!" That's because the clarity of THERE and HERE creates energy and motivation. You see where you want to go and where you are, as well as actions that are the PATH to take. Now that you see some initial actions to take – get started! It is time to Act—Learn—Adjust!

Act – Learn – Adjust Because Perfect Plans Don’t Exist

Action Is Required for Results

"The beginning is half of every action." – Greek proverb

Some people have the energy to experiment without much of a plan. Other people create very robust plans before they take any action. The creative process believes in both and uses THERE, HERE, and PATH in the planning process.

If you create great plans and help reduce risk, excellent! Just remember, plans are great, but action gets things done. Action lets you know if the plan works. And, once you plan, you move quickly to Act, Learn, and Adjust because plans aren't perfect and neither is life.

But some people continue to search for the “perfect” plan. Actually, that is a waste of time because perfect plans don’t exist. Be careful; projects grind to a halt when you get hung up searching for the “perfect” plan.

General Carl von Clausewitz made a great quote. It is a good one to memorize. He was the father of strategic planning in battle, so he believes very strongly in plans, but note what he says.

No campaign plan survives the first contact with the enemy…It is even better to act quickly and err than to hesitate until the time of action is past.  General Carl von Clausewitz

So, plan, but move quickly to acting! In other words, Act—Learn—Adjust.

Iterative Actions and Adjustments

“Action without reflection is mindless” - Henry Mintzberg

The creative process is not a manufacturing process. Other people may have done what you want to do, but you probably haven’t done it. That means you are creating something new, at least for you.

While the creative process has the engine of THP, it is fueled by ALA (Act—Learn—Adjust) once you start on the PATH. Because it is the creative process, LEARN from each action as you execute.

  • ACT—Look at the result of the action
  • LEARN—Did it help? Did it hurt?
  • ADJUST—or act on the next step

Using ALA helps you…

  • …gain knowledge and experience by taking action
  • …see what does and doesn’t work
  • …revise plans to fit the current situation
  • …keep moving toward the Result—one Action at a time

Find ALA in Abraham Lincoln's quote below:

Focus on the Next Step

When President Lincoln was asked how he would approach postwar reunification he said, “I’m going to use the same system as the Mississippi riverboat captains.  They look out as far as they can see, which typically is just the first bend in the river, and they navigate to that point.  When they get to that point, more of the river opens up and they can navigate to the next point…That’s the only way I can see managing such a massive change: navigating from point to point.” – Harvard Management Update, July 2001

ALA's essence is navigating from one action to the next but always keeping THERE in mind.

When Actions Aren't Working

Sometimes, as you work toward your clearly defined THERE, you get off-track and even confused about what you are doing. Sometimes you feel overwhelmed like you are in a maze and can’t get out. That happens when the actions are complex or just tiring. Your focus turns from THERE to the task or details you are working on. If you aren't careful, you do not see beyond the current tasks and forget why you are doing them – THERE, your end result.

When that happens, assess yourself using HALT. That is a good acronym and is part of most 12-step programs. I think it's appropriate for your work. When you work, be careful of the times that you are too...

  • H – hungry
  • A – angry
  • L – lonely
  • T – tired

And, sometimes, S – sick is a valuable addition. In those times, your focus turns from values and aspirations to appetites, impulses, and pleasures. That means you only see what is right here, right now, and do not see THERE - where you want to go.

Take some time to regroup and rest, then refocus on THERE. That helps you get out of overwhelm, confusion, and the maze of life and back into clarity. It also helps you identify your commitment to THERE.

All those issues require you to Act—Learn—Adjust if you still want to get THERE!

Tools to Help You Act

Since you are committed to reaching your THERE, here are some tools to help you continue to act until you do. 

1. Daily Focus Form

I use the Daily Focus Form almost every workday. Hopefully, the instructions are clear enough to follow. The first time you use the form, it can consume time because you will need to list your goals and think about tasks for the goals. For the first time, identify the goals and some actions you would like to complete in the next seven days. If you do not plan to work on one of your goals during the next seven days, don't list anything in that column, but do list what you would like to accomplish in the Next 30 Days column.

After you start, review the form every morning to identify the top 1-3 things you WILL DO that day. An electronic version is much better for me.

2. Learn from the Past, Plan for the Future

This form helps you both with determining a THERE and identifying some obstacles you want to be aware of as you take actions on the PATH. It is an every-once-in-a-while document, different from the Daily Focus Form. Just follow the instructions to see what you can learn.

3. Accountability Partners

When you have Accountability Partners, you get more done. The research in the chart below shows the power of using an Accountability Partner. If you want to get something done, this is a great tool, so please use it.

With those three tools and ALA (Act—Learn—Adjust) in your pocket, you only need persistence to finish the creative process! 

Let's get some things done.


better execution, creating, Creative Process, iterative, learning, learning from acting, planning

You may also like