How Important is Planning... Really?

At this stage in the growth of our organization, it feels like we are in perpetual planning mode. We literally have planning meetings at least 9 months out of every year! Not only have we been working on our 2014 plans, we’ve continued to work on our 2020 plans, which we started formulating about 2 years ago.

Is so much planning a good thing? Is it good stewardship? As I wrestled with the answer to these questions, I thought about many of the great quotes about planning…
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Alan Lakein
"Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work." Peter Drucker
“For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?" Luke 14:28
“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” Dwight D. Eisenhower
After much reflection, my answer to the questions around the value of planning and the required investment of time, my answer is a resounding, "YES – it is worth it!"
Here are four reasons I think planning deserves to be a high priority for every leader.
Planning clarifies our intentions. The best plans flow from goals. In fact, I’m not sure how to plan without goals. Plans are conceived to achieve some predetermined end in mind. Therefore, the act of planning requires the stating of intentions. This helps priorities, alignment and focus – all good things for any organization.
Planning directs the activities of people. Like many of you, I feel extremely fortunate to be part of an organization that has attracted some amazing talent.  Therefore, my concern is rarely that work will be done well. My concern is whether or not we’re doing the right work. I tell my team all the time, "You get no credit for doing the wrong things well." Planning establishes the right things.
Planning forces decisions. No organization can do everything. It is in the planning process where the merits of goals, strategies and tactics are debated and decided. There are always strategic trade-offs to be made. In planning, these are agreed to before the work begins. The plan is the blueprint for the organization. You’re either building a ranch style house or a two-story house. You can’t build both.
Planning enables accountability. Once plans are agreed upon, people can go to work with purpose and confidence. Strategies and tactics can come to life and the impact can be measured. The organization and the individuals involved can be given the gift of accountability. Did we execute the plan with excellence? Was the plan itself valid? What adjustments do we need to make for the future?
I’m convinced planning is one of the highest contributions leaders can make in any organization. I like the way Peter Drucker said it…

The best way to predict the future is to create it.[GLS_Shield]

Are you investing enough time to plan the future of your organization?

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10 years ago

Great post! In an upcoming post can you dive deeper into the tension of following a plan vs. following an opportunity, even if a given opportunity is not part of "the plan"?


10 years ago

Yes, great suggestion! It is an ever-present tension. And, depending on your personality, it can create tremendous stress and anxiety. I will write more about this. My short response is that the best leaders are BOTH planful and spontaneous. You don't reject a gift because you hadn't PLANNED to receive it. Thanks for joining the conversation! Mark

Joseph Lalonde

10 years ago

Mark, great points. Planning helps us to set the course of our organizations and know where we're headed.
Knowing this, I still find myself struggling with planning. Laying out the groundwork is difficult for me. I can see the big picture and I can see some of the steps I need to take. It's putting it on paper and having it be there to physically see that makes me stumble.
This is something that needs to be overcome and yet there's that constant struggle...

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