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Three Ps April 8, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Leadership.
Tags: , ,

A big part of anyone’s job is absorbing information.  As leaders a lot of our crucial information comes from our team as they update us on the issues of the day.  I strongly believe that this flow of information must be accurate, timely, and succinct.

I worry that people spend too much time preparing and rehearsing what they are going to say when prompted for some sort of report.  I have sat in many meetings where people have produced beautiful PowerPoint decks or elaborate Word documents that summarize their work.  These things reflect a lot of effort, and it is clear that people put a lot of time into getting them done.

I appreciate that hard work and the desire to deliver a solid result, but I worry that a lot of that time is better spent on something else.  How do we coach people to deliver information without a lot of fanfare or flourish?  Ultimately, while I appreciate the packaging, I really want the content.

Long ago, I was taught how to present results using the Three Ps: Progress, Problems, and Plans.  Almost any activity can be divided into these three areas, and it makes for a good way to discuss any issue.

Begin by reviewing your progress.  What has been accomplished since we last met on this topic?  What action items were previously promised and have since been resolved?  Even if nothing has been done, note that as well and move on.  This part should be fairly brief, since the goal is to acknowledge progress, not shower accolades.  (You need to do that, but not in this setting.)

Turn to your problems.  This is really the meat of the discussion.  A problem is anything you cannot resolve yourself.  (It you could resolve it yourself, it should have shown up in the Progress section.)  As I’ve noted previously, for each problem you present, be prepared to offer a potential solution.  Drive the discussion to develop an approach for each problem as needed.

Finish with your plans.  What will you be doing next?  What accomplishments and actions should be expected when you next meet on this topic?  Depending on the solutions to your problems, your plans may change dramatically as the discussion evolves.

I like this approach because it brings consistency to any conversation.  Although one or more sections may be empty at some point in time, it helps to formally acknowledge that and move on.  Often, these kinds of conversations get bogged down in just one section.  I’ve seen people go on and on about progress to avoid problems, or focus on plans without reviewing what has been accomplished.  With this simple agenda as a framework, you can stay on track and make sure that everything that needs to be covered is addressed.

Have you tried this approach?  Do you have a different structure that yields good results?  I’d love to hear about it!


1. Wally Bock - April 8, 2009

Congratulations! This post was selected as one of the five best independent business blog posts of the week in my Three Star Leadership Midweek Review of the Business Blogs.


Wally Bock

2. Staff Door » Blog Archive » Weekly Reading List (2009/16) - April 11, 2009

[…] Three Ps (Chuck Musciano) (c) Theodore […]

3. Lynn M - April 15, 2009

I think what you’ve touched on here is ego. While on one hand you can’t fault people for trying to show their value and effort (especially in today’s job market), I think the reason they aren’t providing the “to-the-point” information that is needed has to do with ego, self-promotion, and self-protection. Rather than approaching the work or presentation from the angle of how it is useful to others in the company or the company itself, I think they are approaching it from the angle of how it makes them look. You make a good point — covering up problems or avoiding them by focusing on progress alone isn’t helpful to anyone in the long run and problems certainly don’t disappear.

4. Chuck Musciano - April 15, 2009

Lynn, you are spot on. People seem to fall into two broad camps, those who look out for themselves first, and those who look out for others. The former fall into the trap you have outlined, not realizing how it makes them look bad. People in the latter group are focused on helping and contributing, and put themselves after that. You may achieve short-term success focusing on yourself, but you will achieve long-term success and satisfaction by focusing on others.

5. Deep And Wide « The Effective CIO - May 6, 2009

[…] sharing more quality information in a shorter amount of time. Coaching your people to focus on the Three Ps certainly can help, but it doesn’t stop there. It’s also important to recognize the value of […]

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