We often talk about the importance of staying flexible in your task planning. Project management solutions such as Gantt charts or the waterfall model might have been effective in highly structured environments where after-the-fact adjustments are not only costly, but often impossible. But in modern industries such as software development and marketing, they're obsolete. Flexible planning is a basic requirement for success.
Your task manager app should allow you to plan with flexibility in mind, but also to easily adjust those plans when you do need to change course.
Being flexible doesn't mean that you don't plan. It means that you treat plans for what they are: general schemes that help you decide where you're going and how you might proceed. It means that you are open to reassessing your plan and adjusting as circumstances change. The ability to adapt to new situations and information is an asset that will help your business get where you want faster.
Don't believe me?
Take these companies as an example.
Companies that found success through being flexible
Before the Xerox machine became popular, the Haloid Company (since renamed Xerox Corporation), sold photography paper. Then it developed a photocopying machine using xerography technology. The company grew and found its success in the Xerox machine. Today most of us haven't even heard of the Haloid Company.
Although PayPal has always focused on payments, it first focused on allowing people to make payments from their PDAs (for those who don't remember, that was the early incarnation of the smartphone). Then it switched focus to online payments for eBay sellers, and within a just a year this became its main source of income, causing the company to fully drop PDA payments.
Even Twitter didn't start as what we know it to be today. It started as Odeo, a network where people could find and subscribe to podcasts. But after iTunes began to take over the podcast niche, the company gave its employees two weeks to come up with new ideas. Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone came up with the idea of a micro-blogging platform and the company decided to go with this drastic change. The rest is history.
Flickr, YouTube, Instagram - the examples could go on and on. The point is, these companies were smart enough to see an opportunity and adjust their plans accordingly. And I'm sure some of them will continue tweaking and adjusting as needed, even though you might say they've already achieved success.
Playing the guessing game
At best, planning is a guessing game. It's a general outline, so it's important not to get stuck on it.
Remember that at the beginning of any project, you know less about what needs to be done than you will ever know again. You simply don't know enough to make any plan that will never, ever need adjusting.
So instead of you and your team focusing on meeting an artificial deadline for your plan, you want to focus on great performance, getting closer to the goals and learning in order to adjust your plans accordingly.
That's why working in iterations and using the build, measure, learn method is extremely important in staying flexible and not abiding by illusory deadlines.
This might be a challenge to understand, but planning can't be linear if you're to have any kind of success. You can't simply go from point A to point B in business.
You need to focus on cyclical increments and data points that will inform your future decisions. Instead of working in a vacuum, without any understanding of how your product is affecting customers (or even if there is demand for it to begin with!), you are analyzing the results of small steps and learning from them.
So how can your task manager app help?
To begin with, you want your task manager to allow you to plan in intervals. You want to have a general plan for the day and/or the week, but you don't want to plan your tasks down to the minute. Getting hung up on getting a certain task done at a certain time is the fastest way to forget what your goals actually are.
Second, you want a task manager app that allows you to reprioritize easily - both daily and weekly. One that allows you to move tasks from this week to the next, or from next week to this week. It’s one of the best ways that you can stay responsive to change as you learn new information.
You also want your task manager app to allow for creativity - to be an idea dump where you can record the outcome of brainstorming sessions and come back to them later on when you do want to adjust your plans. Incorporating new tasks should be very easy - you want an easy task manager that allows you to add things that were not part of the initial plan without any hassle.
Have you ever had to drastically change the course of your business? Share your stories with us in the comments below.