The Plan Is the Thing

My husband and I are compulsive home remodelers. Kitchens, bathrooms, stairwells, decks, ceilings…we’ve torn them all down and built them up again. We just can’t stop ourselves.

Over the years, we’ve learned a thing or two about planning ahead vs. jumping right in. When we remodeled the kitchen in our first home, I created exhaustive drawings of the layout—down to the centimeter. I budgeted everything to the penny. I spent a lot of time on details that went down the drain as soon as we ripped everything out and saw what was happening beneath the surface.

Our hyper-detailed plan for the kitchen remodel didn’t hold water, but in retrospect, I can see that pieces of it were worth the effort. Taking time to define our structural elements—drywall, framing, flooring, cabinetry, appliances, finishings—was critical. Assigning ownership for various pieces of the project likely saved our marriage. And setting deadlines helped us maintain a sense of urgency, even though many of those deadlines were missed.

I see a lot of parallels between my home remodeling projects and the solution implementation work I do in the GRC world. The success of any project hangs largely on the quality of the plan, but it has to be the right plan and you have to approach it in the right frame of mind. In other words, know where you’re going, but be open to better, smarter ways of getting there.

Here’s some practical advice:

Focus on the boulders. Let the pebbles fall in place.

It’s so important to identify and orchestrate the major components of your project before you get started. GRC solutions, just like kitchens and bathrooms, are constructed in layers. If you fail to recognize this and just “go at it” without thought to impacts and dependencies, you may find yourself quickly painted into a corner. Take the time to identify the “boulders” in your project and sort out the most logical order of assembly. But don’t get so mired down in the nit-picky details (or “pebbles”) that you can’t get the project off the ground. Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to get started and let the little details fall in place.

Stick to the plan but stay nimble.

You have a plan, the stakeholders have signed off, and you’re moving forward. But inevitably, questions come up. Unforeseen issues arise. Wrenches are thrown in the process and initial decisions are questioned. This is the point when the project can easily collapse. Don’t let it. If your project objectives haven’t changed, if your major structural elements are sound, then press forward. Just get nimble in the details. Be open to adjustment and compromise if it gets you to your ultimate goal of a functional, usable solution.

Don’t rely on tools to think for you.

I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I have blamed our tools for our remodeling woes. If only we had a better nail gun, we could get this wall square. If only we had a compound miter saw, we could get this angle right. Nine times out of 10, it’s not the tool. It’s us not using our brains to solve a problem. The same is true in GRC. We can’t replicate our Excel spreadsheets in a new software platform and expect our process issues to correct themselves. Automating a bad process still leaves us with a bad process. Digitizing confusing content still leaves us confused. It’s up to us as humans to improve the way we work, think and collaborate. Then our tools can help us reach our desired state with sanity (and limbs) intact.

Whether you’re remodeling your master bath or reconstructing your compliance assessment process, you need a plan that guides your work but doesn’t slow you down. Oh…and be prepared to get your hands dirty.

— Sarah Nord

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