Fire, Ready, Aim!

Fire Ready AimBetter Than; Ready, Aim, Fire

Takeaway: We can hesitate to get in the game. Progress happens when we have data to work with. We get data by acting. We learn, adjust and continue to move forward. The problem with “Ready, Aim, Fire!” is we can take too much time with “Ready” and “Aim”. We need the information that comes from “Fire!”

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”  – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Lessons About Inaction (Failure to Launch)

Business – While managing a large department for a company, I noticed that whenever I wanted employees to help come up with improvement projects, rarely did anyone take the lead and suggest an idea. No one wanted their idea shot down.

I learned to get around this by suggesting my own course of action. Whenever I did this, I saw the team engage, criticize my plan and come up with a better plan. It is often easier to make an existing plan better, then start from scratch. We need something we can work with.

Nonprofit organization – Four years ago, I was asked to be a part of a team to help drive a project with a local nonprofit organization. I gladly joined the project, and we began meeting monthly. The project leader was very detail oriented. Too detail oriented. He was not willing to undertake the project until all his questions were answered to his satisfaction.

I spent some time trying to explain the importance of implementing the plan in its partial state and adjusting as we move forward, based on gathered information. He would have no part of that. Slowly all team members dropped off, including me. The project is still in the planning phase.

Plan Deployment

The beginning stages of plans are often based on partial information, assumptions, and best guesses. Beginning plans are incomplete. The needed information for success comes from data captured during early stages of deployment.

We need a strategy to follow for achieving company goals. These should be viewed as living documents. We adjust them continuously as we gain information. Our data illuminates our path in the same manner a flashlight does. The beam of light limits our vision and our plans are restricted by the supporting information we receive.

The plans that succeed are those that gather data and adjust accordingly. This is often described as the PDCA cycle; Plan, Do, check, Act.

The PDCA cycle was made popular by Dr. W. Edwards Deming. PDCA provides a process of experimentation.

Plan – The starting plan is just that “a start.” We always want to weigh the cost and start with an idea. This is the best we can do to guide action and resources at this point. We understand; this is a starting point.

Do – Start execution. We need to get moving to gather data. As we gain feedback, we will adjust the plan.

Check – In this phase, we measure input and output. What does the data tell us?

Act – We adjust, improving our plans. We gain confidence based on experience.


Weigh the Cost

A key to effective planning is having a clear understanding of the expenses associated with it. We are allocating resources. We also need to understand the cost associated with not acting.  

Beginning plans need to be less about completeness and more about cost control and understanding available resources. You wouldn’t start building a house without making sure you have needed funding.

All plans require adjusting, based on gathered data during execution. We need to anticipate needed resources to keep us moving.


It’s All About the Data

Fire, Ready, Aim means we act as soon as possible. This is what lean start-ups are based on. We want to get into the game with minimal time and resources. The data gathered during deployment will guide us on the best paths to take and best use of resources. The sooner we act, the sooner we have real data to guide efforts. We no longer work with only a theory, we have information.

We make the best progress while executing and measuring key performance indicators. This means setting our sights on leading indicators to control lagging indicators.

Leading indicators are anything measurable we can use to guide us and gain control. These are precursors to lagging indicators. If profit is viewed as a lagging indicator, costs are leading indicators used to increase profit.


Get in the Game

Use the Nike Principle and “Just Do It”

Planning 101 states we understand these components:

  • Our current condition – (This needs to be accurate)
  • Our desired goal – (This too, must be reported clear, and its importance understood)
  • Required resources – (Here is where you weigh the cost)
  • Obstacles – (People quickly lose confidence in plans that do not include potential barriers)
  • What is the price of not acting? What is the price of hesitating?

We can state clearly our current condition and goal. We should understand needed resources and potential obstacles, but beyond that…the plan used to close the gap, must be living and dynamic.  

Count the cost of acting vs. not acting.

  1.  Fire: Gather data from inputs. You are now in the game.
  2.  Ready: Make changes based on data collected from your deployment. You now have information to increase confidence. You are no longer working only with theory.
  3.  Aim: Adjust the plan as needed based on the information. You have improved accuracy and can move with confidence that you are on target.

Wash, rinse, repeat; start the process over.

Pull the trigger. Nothing happens until we get in the game and we get in the game by taking action.