No plan survives first contact with reality

Tips to navigating through obstacles while working your plan

Life has a funny way of keeping us humble. Being a “planner” by nature, I tend to greet the world with a plan, only to encounter obstacles that make me question if I should have even taken the time to plan in the first place.  

Like last summer, when I ran the Blueprint Studio pilot program, I put a plan together to build, use and pilot all the shiny new Blue Arroyo blueprints for launching a successful new business or product. My pilot ⭐preneurs are great, they helped me as I navigated through the many obstacles we encountered in working “the plan”.  The biggest obstacle my ⭐preneurs and I faced was when my 87-year old Dad’s health suddenly took a turn for the worse. In the middle of our 18-week pilot program my father broke his hip, and sadly he passed away a few weeks later from the impact it had on his health. My ⭐preneurs and I all shared in the practice of keeping our “Wheel-of-Life” round, and we let each other know when we had a “flat tire”.  So when this happened, everyone knew that I had a very big flat tire, and they gave me the support and space I needed to grieve.

When the program resumed, I needed to find a way to help each ⭐preneur meet their goals in the final few weeks we had left of the program. I pulled out a trusty tool I use, that I learned in 1991 from Ed Etzel, my HP District Manager, called the 4Gs. It’s a simple way to work through and around the inevitable obstacles that pop up while executing a plan. Jim (my business partner and husband) liked it so much that he adopted as a status reporting method with his Seabees working around the world and is still using it at Caltech.

Basically, the 4Gs is a no-tech way of assessing:

  • Gains made on accomplishing the plan
  • Gotcha’s from obstacles encountered while working the plan
  • Goods that are needed to proceed executing the plan (i.e. data, approval, or a deliverable from someone else)
  • Goals for making progress to the next milestone in the plan

Over the years I’ve phoned, faxed, emailed, printed, texted and used collaboration tools like Basecamp to post my 4Gs. I’ve done this daily, weekly or monthly depending on how fast the plan is moving forward.

You can use the 4Gs immediately.  Just think of replacing your mental or written “To-do” list with a set of 4Gs. Share it with team members, partners and/or supporters so that they can celebrate gains, understand the gotchas, help get the goods and support the goals to work “the plan”.  Pick a format (text, email, phone, stand-up, app), a time, and try it! In my experience, when you start using the 4Gs, obstacles that impede progress go from being roadblocks to speed bumps, and the plan stays on track.

The 4Gs are an amazingly simple, but elegant, navigation tool to guide your plan forward to bring your vision to life. I am so grateful that my pilot ⭐preneurs embraced the 4Gs last summer, I know my Dad would be so proud of us. Namaste!

You got this!



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  • Judi Cowell
    published this page in Blog 2021-02-19 14:08:16 -0800


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