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Some Thoughts on Taking the Planning Plunge

Rules for your Journey

You’re finally going to do it. You are a born again believer in the benefits of business and strategic planning. To prepare you for the plunge here’s some rules of the road to guide you through the process.

The planning process can be exhilarating, frustrating, enlightening, demanding and a host of other descriptive adjectives. Hopefully you’ll find a nugget or two in these do’s and don’ts that will keep the emphasis on the positives of your unique organizational growth experience. Carpe Diem!

Some Planning Do’s:

  • It’s the process that counts! Think verb rather than noun. Bringing your team together, fostering interaction, and forming a climate of mutual interdependence and commitment is the real achievement. The final document is not as important as the process that gets you there.
  • Do trust your instincts. You have lived and breathed what your company is all about. Your plan has to feel right in your gut. Contemplative logic and passionate emotion are good tools. Use them both.
  • Keep the emphasis on communication. Your planning is the linkage between your future, the team that will take you there and the other stakeholders in your enterprise. It’s the glue that binds it all together and drives performance. Communication is the oxygen for your organization’s future.
  • Focus on EXECUTION. Remember, results are what count. The best plan in the world is worthless if it can’t be executed. Unfortunately, they don’t give Pulitzer Prizes for business plans. An executable plan on a napkin is a preferable alternative to an elaborate document that gathers dust.
  • Keep it flexible, adaptive and evolving. As Yogi Berra said, “the future ain’t what it used to be”. Your planning should be an ongoing living process that can adapt and change as competitive, technological and social conditions evolve. Keep it dynamic not static.
  • Stretch. Challenge your organization to extraordinary achievement. Your plan should inspire, motivate and paint a compelling vision for performance. It should keep everyone’s juices flowing.
  • Expect unintended consequences. There’s an old English Proverb that states “every path has its puddle”. Regardless of your collective wisdom, there will be unforeseen ramifications, pro and con. Acknowledge this as part of the planning process.
  • Enjoy the process. What a wonderful opportunity to bring together the people you admire to form a compelling future together. Getting a lot done and having a lot of fun. Go for it.

Some Planning Don’ts:

  • Don’t delegate responsibility (embrace it). This is one management project you can’t delegate away. As CEO, you have to embrace and champion the process. Leadership goes with the position. Rise to the occasion.
  • Don’t get caught in the terminology trap. Planning terminology (vision, mission, strategy, tactics, performance metrics, etc.) can murk things up. It should help your team communicate not hinder them. The challenge is to keep the process understandable to all. It’s not important what you call it as long as it drives team performance.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed. Keep it simple. If it seems to complex, then back off. Try to rephrase and simplify the process. A plan doesn’t have to read like “War and Peace” to be effective.
  • Don’t look for the perfect plan. Perfection is for the next life. As Patton’s’ law expresses it, “a good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow”.
  • Don’t deny the facts. Reality can be harsh, but the sooner you accept it, the sooner it can be addressed. There is a fine line between rationalizing failure and denial of reality. The challenge is to know the difference.
  • Don’t get trapped by your plan. The purpose of the plan is guide and drive performance. If it becomes unrealistic don’t continue to follow a bad road map. Change it.
  • Don’t do it if you’re not going to use it. Be committed to the process. Your passion must be overwhelming if it’s to be effective. You have the opportunity to develop a culture of performance. Don’t go through the motions if it won’t make a difference.

Enjoy the Journey

The planning process can be exhilarating, frustrating, enlightening, demanding and a host of other descriptive adjectives. Hopefully you’ll find a nugget or two in these do’s and don’ts that will keep the emphasis on the positives of your unique organizational growth experience. Carpe Diem!