The 7 P’s

There are many sayings and acronyms from the military that translate well into civilian life, but one saying I love that most people are unfamiliar with is “The 7 P’s”.

Proper Planning and Practice Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

I’ll admit I do hear some variations of it from time to time with the most common being: Proper planning prevents poor performance.

That lacks two critical words though – if you don’t practice and rehearse odds are you will have piss poor performance.

Trust me – there is a cost associated with a lack of practice and that cost will show itself before too long.


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

Proper planning allows you to successfully envision the outcomes of your endeavors and prepare for all contingencies.

It allows you and your team to envision hurdles that will arise during the execution of the plan.

Proper planning takes time and requires input from multiple sources.  These inputs must be collectively gathered from all team members and stakeholders.  Not all input will be valid, and quite a bit won’t make it to the final plan, but that’s ok.  Expect it and move on.

A great guide for planning can be found in the Army’s Military Decision Making Process (MDMP) which is briefly outlined below.

1. Receipt of Mission: The task that drives the planning process is delivered.  This step should clearly articulate: what you are trying to do?

2. Mission Analysis: This drives the entire planning process; if you don’t know what your successful conclusion is – how are you going to reach it?  This step ends with a concise mission statement that will drive further planning.  It’s amazing the number of times I see plans with no clear idea of what exactly the plan is meant to accomplish.

3. Course of Action (COA) Development: Develop a minimum of three different Courses of Action to discover possible solutions to reach your desired end-state.  Each of these developed courses of action must support the successful conclusion reached previously, and each must be unique or distinct from the others.  Think of this step as collective brainstorming. Remember that all input is valid and seek input from all team members.  If you’ve selected and educated your team effectively to this point you should know to value their input.

4. Course of Action (COA) Analysis: During this step each identified Course of Action is assessed for strengths and weaknesses – again after taking into account input from all stakeholders and team members.  Think of this step as your troubleshooting phase.

5. Course of Action (COA) Comparison: Results from the assessment are compared, and overall strengths and weaknesses are determined.  At the conclusion of this phase the planning team should have reached a consensus on the preferred way ahead.

6. Course of Action (COA) Approval: Leadership and key stakeholders see the results from planning, and select the Course of Action determined to best accomplish organizational objectives.  Many new leaders make the mistake of not taking into account the full input of the planning team and mistakenly approving the least preferred Course of Action.

7. Orders Production: This is the point at which the actual plan starts to develop.  Action items and roles are determined and a schedule is created.


“I play to win, whether in practice or a real game. And I will not let anything get in the way of me and my competitive enthusiasm to win.” Michael Jordan

In the Special Forces we have several sayings endorsing the absolute necessity of rehearsals and practice.

The saying my team adopted for regular use was “Train like you fight.”  Then we would rehearse.  And rehearse.  Then fine tune.  And then rehearse again…

If you treat every practice event like actual combat – combat becomes “routine.”

Neglecting practice is one of the biggest mistakes I see people make on a regular basis.  Everything we do requires practice and rehearsals.  Presentations, sales calls, developing meeting agendas, shareholder meetings, networking events, hiring interviews: everything.

Even after you have perfected the process you must still practice and rehearse to ensure complacency doesn’t set in.

A final yet beautiful benefit of practice is that it also allows you to see any flaws in earlier planning and adjust your plans accordingly.  Before it’s too late.  Proactively – not reactively.


“Think ahead. Don’t let day to day operations drive out planning.” Donald Rumsfeld

There’s no excuse for lack of preparedness in today’s corporate world.  The corporate landscape is far too volatile for us to think we can survive on outdated planning processes and without practicing and honing our edge.

Once you realize“piss poor performance” can be eliminated through proper planning and practice you will never look at planning the same way again.

We all know failure is costly and it’s up to you to determine how much you are willing to pay.

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