planning vs. “the plan”

“I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

I think we would all do well to adhere to planning advice from the individual responsible for directing the D-Day Invasion of Normandy.  Unfortunately, it appears we have become more enamored with the “event” than we are with the “process”.  We only need to look around at what we have experienced the past 18 months to see the result of focusing on the wrong thing.  To make the quote even more appropriate, just put the word “strategic” in front of planning and that is what we should strive to exemplify today. 

I shared an article from the Wall Street Journal with my partners (Nate Riggs & Mary Kall) at Social Business Strategies last night regarding how top CEO’s are now re-evaluating how they go about strategic planning.  I cannot share the specifics of the conversation (trying to maintain my “G” rating) but, suffice to say, we expressed collective disbelief that it had taken this long for this to happen.  Perhaps this myopic approach to planning was a contributing factor to the overall economic malaise these past few years. 

(Bonus points for anyone who identifies the Greek myth this sign references.  In reality, I could have just typed “strategic planning” next to this sign and the post would have been complete. Cryptic & Gordian, but complete nonetheless. )

Here is a short list of our thoughts on planning (note this is a verb, which represents ACTION)

  • It is hard work and requires the ability to focus equally on both the internal and external environments
  • Expand your sphere of interest so you see potential challenges and/or opportunities before they reach your sphere of influence
  • Develop your ability to embrace paradoxical thinking so that you can build a continuously evolving vision in addition to making that vision a reality through ruthlessly pragmatic approach to executional excellence
  • Be an evangelist of the 3P’s of Processes, People, & Performance
  • Posssess a wildly collaborative nature so that you can leverage the collective knowledge, experience, and opinions of everyone involved
  • A fanatical commitment to “where you are going”  coupled with complete disregard for “how you get there” (don’t become so focused on your way that miss the best way
  • Willingness to practice bricolage (you’ll have to click on the link if you are not familiar with term:)

This is obviously not a comprehensive list but that’s the point.  There is no complete list or method because the best method is whatever you do that works.  That is the essence of strategic planning – taking what worked and continually adding new information, knowledge, and results so that your plan evolves and stays relevant and effective.

Interestingly enough, Publilius Syrus (a 1st century Syrian writer) figured this out a long ago as he is credited with saying, “It is a bad plan that admits of no modification.”



Filed under Adaptation, Strategy

5 responses to “planning vs. “the plan”

  1. Just thought this was interesting: “Possess a wildly collaborative nature so that you can leverage the collective knowledge, experience, and opinions of everyone involved”

    The product of such is synergy (my favorite word ever…)

  2. Jim Brochowski on Facebook…

    “That’s Sisyphus rolling that stone uphill.”

    I heart crowd sourcing 🙂

  3. Great list of things to keep in mind. I am also excited at the use of the “bricolage” in your post. I was particularly struck by your point “being fanatical about where you’re going.” It’s so easy to get caught up in the “how” of getting there rather than maintaining focus on the “where you’re going” aspect. Thanks so much for sharing.

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