Clarity of thought is such a gift. To know what one wants is the first and most important step in achieving anything. The last government resolutely set a goal: open the schools in September.
And so Education Minister Norma Foley faces a huge task.
Against her will be trade unions throwing every obstacle in her path; "concerned parents" losing the head at the tiniest prospect of risk to their child; journalists who need and crave mistakes for headlines, and Opposition TDs who have no responsibility for anything.
The zero-Covid doctors won't be much help either, taking to the airwaves insisting no cost is too high to keep the virus suppressed. They're wrong.
In my day job of project management and communications we call these "stakeholders" - the people and organisations who are affected by and can influence the outcome of a project. Since public discourse focuses on the negative, having these mighty stakeholders lining up to leverage problems will wear Foley down if she's not clever about it.
She must avoid getting caught up in the weeds of re-opening schools and instead focus on how to motivate and manage her stakeholders. Their attitude will make or break this project.
There are three big things she can do to help herself and all of us who want the schools back.
The first is to accept, and encourage others around her to accept, humility. Behavioural psychology teaches us that all projects, big or small, from buying a car to a company, take more time than you think.
When you repeat an action, like producing the annual report or building another road, success is high. But we've never done this before. No one knows what they're doing and how could they?
Foley should make clear that problems are going to be the norm not the exception.
Amy Edmondson, a professor of organisational behaviour at Harvard, recommends framing projects as a learning exercise, not an execution exercise.
If Foley tells us the department has worked out a plan, the plan is great and all effort goes into executing and defending the plan; when the plan fails, she's in trouble. Instead she needs to make clear that there is a plan, but it may need to be tweaked and changed as it's rolled out.
Changing one's course is the smartest thing anyone can do, yet we make this wildly difficult for politicians by screaming "U-turn" at them when they do so. If we gave government permission to get things wrong and start over - which is the entirely sane and sensible move - they might be more willing to abandon bad plans earlier.
So don't make the plan sacred text.
Her second task is stating her objective in careful terms.
If she says her objective is to ensure all children and teachers can go back to school completely safe from Covid-19, she's guaranteeing failure.
She should guarantee there will be outbreaks in schools this winter.
To make her personally responsible for anyone getting sick would be really stupid, which won't stop certain people from doing precisely that.
Rather, she should state her objective is to ensure all children go back to school, knowing there are risks, but doing our best to manage those and having local lockdown plans in place when the inevitable happens.
I'd put the "outbreak" protocol front and centre. That has the double effect of setting expectations sensibly and giving people the confidence of knowing in advance how to act when - not if - there's a cluster in their school. I've written crisis management plans, but the first thing anyone needs to do is read them before the crisis, not after the bomb has exploded.
Finally, Foley needs to accept and empower local management. The truth is the department can't create protocols and rules that suit every school and family.
Our local primary school is brilliantly managed and I've every confidence they'll get it right. But there will be poorly managed schools who'll get it wrong.
Instead of a blame game, I'd set up a system where schools can share success stories. If someone's getting it right, find a way to get that knowledge to others fast.
There's an important nuance here though. In Amy Edmondson's work she charted the most successful medical teams against the teams that reported the most errors. To her surprise they were the same teams. When mistakes and people aren't punished, but instead seen as problems to be solved, errors are discovered, corrected and learned from quickly and effectively.
I'd set up a weekly newsletter or video call for schools that includes stories from boards of managements and principals on how they handled a particular problem. I'd frame it so it starts out with a challenge or mistake. Admissions of vulnerability are a strength, not a weakness. Foster curiosity and encourage questions as opportunities for learning not challenges to authority.
I've made all this sound very simple but of course it's not. These rules apply to all projects but over and again we see people let their weaknesses, egos, agendas and defensiveness crush success.
But that's why leadership is important. I often think of the pilot episode of 'ER' when David Morgenstern tells Dr Greene: "You set the tone."
Foley is an unknown quantity and it's in all our interests that she shines. Bombarded with advisers and advice, I'd simply say to her: "You set the tone."