As humans, none of us is perfect. Even if we can, on occasion, execute perfectly on something more often than not we all need to course correct at some point. Some examples of when we need to course correct are:
- Having incorrect or invalidated assumptions
- Starting something that has a lot of ambiguity
- Finding out about missing or hidden dependencies
- Having a plan that falls short of delivering on a specific commitment.
- Failing to accomplish a goal, milestone or key deliverable
That list isn't exhaustive and is applicable to the projects we work on, the way we interact with our peers/directs/superiors, career development and many other aspects of our lives. Having mechanisms in place to help you correct your course *before* or soon after you get off track will help you be more successful. Here are some tips to help you setup mechanisms that enable course correction.
Be willing to change course
As humans change doesn't come easy for us. Once we set ourselves on a certain course we will naturally want to continue down that course because it's easy. This may sound obvious, but course correcting starts with being willing to change course.
What this means practically is that you have to be open to:
- Being wrong
- Doing more work
- Scraping work you've already done
- Having difficult conversations
- Asking difficult questions
- Being relentless about seeking the truth and proceeding with the *right* data
Ask questions that help you understand when course correction is needed
There are several questions that I try to consistently ask when checking in on the progress of something I'm working toward:
- Where am I on track?
- Where am I ahead of schedule?
- Where am I behind schedule?
- Is there anything I plan to work on that I no longer need to?
- Do I need to re-arrange priorities?
- Is what I'm working on right now the simplest/fastest/most efficient way to achieve my goal?
- What information do I have now that I didn't when I started? How does that change my approach?
- Is everything I depend on to be successful still on-track? If not, what does it take to get back on track?
- How does the recent decision about X affect me?
Meet regularly with your key stakeholders and solicit feedback
Making sure that you're on the right course means talking with your stakeholders often. Depending on the context of what you're trying to achieve, the form of these meeting may look different. But the key is that you're meeting regularly and getting as much feedback as you can.
Some common forms these meetings take are:
- One-on-ones: This is where you are meeting with an individual regularly and asking for specific perspective and feedback. These meetings are more intimate and can typically get into a lot of depth. These typically occur weekly or bi-weekly.
- Daily project sync up: Most agile teams do this in the form of a daily scrum. The purpose of this meeting is to make sure everyone is aware of hyper local changes. Talk about what was accomplished yesterday, what you plan to accomplish today, and what you may be blocked on.
- Program status meetings: This is where you meet with the key participants of a project or program and check in on the status. In this meeting you want to focus on things that are either off track or at risk of being off track. Most often I've seen this occur weekly or bi-weekly. It's really important to have people in this meeting who can authorize change.
- Stakeholder meetings: These are regular sync ups with the people that depend on you and your work or that you depend on. These meetings are typically with people that you don't have much visibility into day to day operations with.
- Team/Org meetings: This is time with your direct team. This time is best used for vision casting, transparency, and/or checking the temperature of the team (i.e. how are people feeling).