The Four Stages of Learning and Your 30-60-90 Day Plan

The Four Stages of Learning suggests that individuals are initially unaware of how little they know, or unconscious of their incompetence – we don’t know what we don’t know. As we recognize our incompetence, we consciously acquire knowledge (we know what we don’t know). When we are consciously using knowledge then we know what we know. Eventually, our knowledge can be utilized without us being consciously aware that we are using it: then we have acquired unconscious competence and we don’t know what we know:

Unconscious incompetence – we don’t know what we don’t know

Conscious incompetence – we know what we don’t know

Conscious competence – we know what we know

Unconscious competence – we don’t know what we know

I suggest that we apply this to our 30-60-90 day plans. A 30-60-90 day plan is a written outline of our strategy and the plans we have for the first three months. A good 30-60-90 day plan:

  • Starts with a clear definition of objectives that are rooted in value to the company
  • Identifies specific deliverables and aligns them back to the objectives
  • Contains discrete themes for each plan stage; provides a clear set of tasks with dates
  • Contains a scorecard so it’s easy to measure and ultimately demonstrate your success.

For the first 30 days of our plan, recognize that we don’t know what we don’t know. To compensate for this, we spend the first 30 days just listening. Drop all our preconceived notions, listen and learn as much as we can about the market, target customers, competition, organization’s strategy, objectives, plan, culture, people, processes and tools. Take plenty of notes, absorb it and take it all in. At the end of the 30 days, form our hypothesis of areas of strengths, opportunities and how we may best contribute. Recognize that we are moving from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence.

For the next 30 days, test our hypothesis. Interview everyone that we think we need to talk to and do the research that we think we need to do to validate and evolve our hypothesis. We are moving from conscious incompetence to conscious competence. Don’t think that we will know everything we need to know at the end of 60 days, but we should have evolved our hypothesis into a preliminary plan.

For the last 30 days, we will share our plan with stakeholders and revise it as needed. There is still some unconscious incompetence but mostly conscious incompetence and conscious competence. There is also some unconscious competence that we brought us… we must be aware of this, too. At the end of the 90 days, we should have a thoughtful plan.