Examples of “simple planning” from a Google search: Simple party planning, simple meal planning, simple exercise planning, simple financial planning (begs the question, why didn’t the financial institutions follow their own advice?), simple funeral planning, simple health care planning, simple planning for education, simple vacation planning, simple wedding planning, simple ways to easy planning, really simple strategic planning, etc., … 68,100,000 results to be exact.
Planning is all around us. Everybody must be doing it. I mean, the call to arms is, what’s the plan, man?!
And yet, how many of us really plan or have plans that we not only map out, but actually follow, make midcourse corrections and ultimately evaluate how we did or if we did it in the first place (you know, the look yourself in the mirror test).
New Year’s Resolutions are a great example of all talk and no walk.
- One, most of us have committed our resolutions to memory (usually only one to three resolutions anyway).
- Two, we simply recite our resolution at the appointed hour just like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. We don’t even bother listening to our own words, we just do it because … well … because we just do it. Everybody does … that’s why.
- And, three, we all have an unwritten rule not to call each other out. You don’t tell me I have used the same resolutions without resolution for 34 years, if I don’t tell you yours are even older, unrealized, blabbering words used only to accompany the champagne toast that precedes the hugs and kisses.
It’s no surprise then, that only 8% of us actually do anything at all with our New Year’s Resolutions. That’s only one out of 12 of us (and frankly, I think the percentage is lower than that). I can’t recall anyone I know having done them. Giving something up for Lent seems to have a higher participation rate.
So what’s the deal? Who follows any of the 68,100,000 simple plans Google spits out anyway? Who really plans for the future, must less the present?
Why plan? What are the benefits? Not the features … we all know those. Get it in writing. Define reasonable objectives and strategic solutions to accomplish them, hold someone(s) accountable, have beginning, middle and end timelines (steps along the way), define resource allocations and ultimately, design a way to evaluate how you did (and, whether you did anything in the first place … think New Year’s Resolutions).
Those are the features of a plan and the planning process. Again, what are the benefits? What’s in it for me?
By the way, scare tactics don’t seem to work. You know, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” Remember, if majority of us are planning to fail, we are at least in good company. So, what are the benefits already?
- Planning better defines the course of action that we propose to undertake
- Planning gives a rough estimate of the time required for a project
- Planning gives us a fairly good idea about the expenses involved in the project. In fact a budget is only a financial plan
- Planning helps us to get prepared for emergencies that may arise during the course of the project
- A well thought out plan gives us a clear idea about want is to be done every day, every week and every month
- Planning helps avoid duplication of labor
- A plan gives everyone a clear idea of their respective role in the project
Certainly planning alone does not produce results; it is a means, not an end in itself. The plans have to be implemented to produce results. However, well-developed plans increase the chances that the day-to-day activities will lead to desired results. Planning helps us focus on the right priorities, and it improves the process of people working together as they pursue these priorities.
So, I can’t promise that people who plan will have their hair or teeth longer than others, or truly become more successful in their endeavors, but I can tell you they will hedge their bets immensely. Because planning is a discipline, and requires focus, accountability and is action/outcome oriented, odds are you will accomplish your goals more often with a planning process and plan than without. Even great poker players don’t leave a whole lot to chance.
Dwight Eisenhower, when contemplating the plan for Operation Overlord (the code name for the invasion of Normandy and northwest Europe during World War II) said, “Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.” His view was that, while both are necessary, plans by their very nature are nothing but static documents while planning is a responsive and dynamic action that brings focus to uncertainty.
Peter Drucker gave the world one of my most favorite quotes, “The only way to predict the future is to create it.” The best way to create it is to plan, act, evaluate, learn, wash, rinse and repeat.
The key is to create a road map to your vision of the future and take the accountability for defining and taking the action steps needed to see that you (and all involved) get there.
This may be what it takes to truly say, Happy New Year, year in and year out.
><(("> Tom Laughon
Tom is affectionately known as BIG ><(("> at Catch Your Limit
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