5 Mins. @ Sunset: PLAN

Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan

Make Sure You End Up Where You Want to Be!

This week's episode is about Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan. We're here at Penley Produce where I first learned about the fundamentals of work planning. I work here on this family farm with my granddaddy (Mr. Lloyd Adam Penley) until I went off to college at NC State University.

Lloyd Penley lived until 102 years old

As part of the Happy Guide, we talked about the role of work planning in your life. I had a quote that was broken out that said, “The journey of the soul is a soul Journey. I believe it is a solo flight worth some pre-flight planning.” A lot of people have talked to us about that concept. So today I'd like to talk about three basics of work planning that I think affects how you work at home, work, or your extracurricular activities.


First basic idea is what I would call, Rat Through the Snake. You need to think about a project like it's a snake, and your job is to push that rat from the beginning to the end of the snake, and you don't get to skip!

I learned this from a fella named Chris Garrett when we worked for Deloitte (Touche Rosse). Chris went on to work at IBM, but he understood what a critical path was and how you had to pay respect to it to make a project come in on budget and on time.

Pittsburgh Circa 1986

We do this when we flight plan to leave out of Key West and head to Boston. You think about everything from pre-flight to the time you turn the engines off. Every stage of flight from beginning to end. We got a simple video I'd like to show you how something as simple as going on the airplane flight uses these types of planning tools. (Can't upload here ... sorry, but it is really cool to see each phase of flight.)


The second basic about work planning is called Nine women Can't Have a Baby in a Month.

This gets to the very basic understanding of resource management. When you should bring more people in or when you should take people off a project. A good friend of mine and colleague John Shaughnessy understood this as much as anyone I knew.

"Let's Turn That Frown Upside Down"

If I sat in one meeting, then I sit in a hundred where he was explaining to the client that we could have the world standing around watching the one or two technicians finish their job. Or we could bring in more resources to follow up after they were done.

It's a sophisticated way of looking at the way you do work at PCG, but it was the same thing we did here at Penley Produce. When we cut a hay, we could have let everybody in the world stand around watching the guy cut the hay and bale it. You couldn't go pick it up until he was finished. So, we had everybody doing other things. Then when the hay was bailed and ready to go, that fella sat down and all the rest of us went and put it in the barn.


The third and final basic idea we're going to talk about today is You Don't know What You Don't Know and that gets down to you know, independent verification and validation. Lori Thornton, who works in PCG’s Technology Consulting, I watched her do this as well as anybody on a project out in Hawaii. She was able to “measure three times, cut once” making sure that you planned your work and then you work your plan. Always, understanding things are going to change.

An example would be back in 1978, we were here and had planted a bunch of beans (mountaineer half-runners) and yellow squash. There was a trucker strike. The price of beans went up to forty dollars a bushel. The price of squash went down to a dollar a bushel. All that was because of trucks could not move the produce in and out. We had to make a switch. Normally, we would have focused on the squash. We switched our focus on the beans. We made our money on beans

Diversification, Project Management, and Hardwork

Now, for you folks who didn't grow up here in the hills of Western North Carolina, those three work planning basics are: make sure you understand your critical path, make sure you've allocated the right resources at the right time in the project, and make sure you implement some type of independent verification validation system. When you work your plan, you've worked it accordingly to the plan you made.


So why does any of this matter? I don't care if you're a parent trying to figure out how to remotely educate your kid. I don't care of your church trying to figure out how to continue to serve your congregation during COVID, or you are helping PCG put in a new financial management system.

Francis Asbury United Methodist Church - founded in 1905

These work planning basics which are: you got to push the rat through the snake, nine women can't have a baby in a month, and you don't know what you don't know are the principles that you need to cling to as you plan your work and work your plan.

This has been five minutes and sunset. I'm Tony McLean Brown. Hope to see you next week.

Appreciate you.

Author Tony McLean Brown Happy Guide

Tony McLean Brown

A Western NC hillbilly through and through, Tony McLean Brown was born in the small town of Enka-Candler outside of Asheville.  His parents re-named him when he was 3 years old to Tony (a nickname provided by his grandfather) McLean (middle name of his Uncle Michael) while retaining his legal surname Brown.

Throughout his career, Tony McLean Brown worked as a farmer, computer programmer, and management consultant – in his adventurous years – author, song-writer, bass player, poet, pilot, mountaineer, certified scuba diver, and competitor in professional bull riding, NASCAR late model racing, Toughman boxing, Crossfit Open, Ironman, pole vaulting, marathon and ultra-marathon running, as well as parenting.

www.HappyGuidetoaShortLife.com has been leveraged to help charities and non-profits across the globe, USA, NC, and Lake Norman area. If you, your family, school, church, or charity has been supported, please take the time to share, like, subscribe, comment, and provide a 5 star review!


  1. Laurie Thornton on September 9, 2020 at 9:04 pm

    Thanks for the mention in this week’s episode. Regarding “Plan the Work, Work the Plan”, never were truer words spoken. When I embark on my treks on the Pacific Crest Trail. effective planning is literally, what has saved my life and enabled me to complete half of the trail (1300 miles) with the hope of making it to my final destination in Canada.

    Hope is the way we plan, and there has never been a time when hope has been more important. During these trying times, so many of us are struggling with knowing what to do. What’s most important is that we do whatever we can.

    • Tony McLean Brown on September 15, 2020 at 5:32 pm

      @laurie – possibly for several generations, your clients and the people they serve will benefit from your expertise and wisdom. I expect every step on your treks … leverage the techniques and approach you have developed over your career. Be safe, be well, and most importantly be happy. #Gratitude

  2. Chris Garrett on September 30, 2020 at 1:59 pm

    Good times working with you. I’ll never forget how Bob Kirk would mention your name; “Broooown?”. Thanks for the mention.