Say Hello to the Elephants Quadrant Four: Sustainability

September 2015


In Quadrant Three we looked at implementing the solutions you designed in Quadrant Two. In Quadrant Four we look at how you can sustain your plan once you've implemented it.

The sustainability phase is rather like a pilot who changes his flight plan to deal with unexpected weather conditions. Sustainability is, therefore, the practice of continuously reviewing your progress to make sure you are moving in the right direction. Sustainability is an essential part of clarity planning for these reasons:

  • Circumstances change - you must not become committed to one solution and plough headlong towards disaster.
  • You learn the solutions that work and those that don't - if your solution isn't working, it's time to change the solution.
  • Your goals change - to move towards your evolving goals you need sustainability.

When done well, sustainability answers three simple questions:

1. What did you set out to do?

2. Did you achieve your desired results?

3. Do you want what happened to continue or change?

The sustainability process evaluates your current state of affairs and measures it against the results you expected.

Keeping it relevant

When sustaining your plan you need to ask yourself whether your solution is still relevant to where you are today. If your solution no longer works, or your goals have changed, you need to change your plan.

The Sustainability Quadrant holds all four quadrants together. It leads you back to the first quadrant and keeps your plan moving. Without this quadrant your plan will eventually grind to a halt. So ask yourself:

  • Is my solution still relevant to where I am today?
  • Have my goals changed?
  • Have conditions changed such that my solution no longer works?

Sustaining predictability

It is important that you create a link between behaviour and outcome. Understanding what actions you need to take monthly, quarterly and annually to replicate and sustain your results is part of your maintenance plan.

But things don't always work out the way you expect. By trying to create a predictable outcome, you begin narrowing down solutions so that you can find the link between behaviour and outcomes.

Paying attention to sustainability can save you a lot of stress and your business a lot of money. If you want to make sure your results are predictable, sustainability is your answer.

Sustaining the power

Because they change, you will want to evaluate how your current circumstances fuel your goals. To make sure you have allocated the right amount of power to your plan ask yourself these questions:

  • Is what I'm doing bringing me the most value for the money I'm spending?
  • Are there things that will make my plan more powerful?
  • Is my plan too powerful? Is it creating a ripple effect that is touching aspects of my life or business that I had not calculated? Is it so successful that I can begin focussing my efforts elsewhere and take my foot off the accelerator?

Measuring outcomes

One reason people fail is because they don't track progress precisely. You must make your goals and solutions measurable, and then you must measure them.

The Quadrant Thinking process is guaranteed to work provided you commit to measuring outcomes and changing your plan if you don't realise your goals. Measure your outcomes by asking these questions:

  • Has the eventual goal been met?
  • What is working?
  • If successful, what are the specific and measurable outcomes that indicate success?
  • How does my desired outcome relate to the present situation?
  • What is not working?
  • In what ways is the solution not working?
  • Has the goal changed? Or did the solution fail to meet the goal?

Loving your elephants

Facing your elephants forces you to grow. If you cut and run at the first sign of trouble you will never move past your current situation. You might come to love your elephants - they challenge you and force you to become bigger, stronger, and more powerful.

The moral of the story is: welcome elephants into your home and shower them with affection. Get to know them. Ask them where they came from and why they are important. Then eat them, one bite at a time.

One final thought

In a sense, we all start the Quadrant Thinking process in Quadrant Four.

The process of creating Clarity really begins with assessing where you are now. Measuring and evaluating this state is the start point for testing yourself against the values and visions that have brought you to the point you've now reached in Quadrant Four. Answering the Quadrant Four questions creates the context for beginning the Quadrant Thinking process again. I think of this as an ascending spiral of upward progress, constantly working the process to become more effective, more fulfilled and happier in the end.

Author: Tony A. Rose

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