Is Planning Really Better Than Winging It?
By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University
The business environment changes so quickly these days that one might well think “why bother” when it comes to planning. What’s the point of making plans when they have to be revised or scrapped every quarter, possibly every month? Isn’t it better to stay flexible and nimble, keep one’s ear to the ground, and be ready to pivot when the winds shift?
On the surface, it may seem easier and more sensible to abandon planning. Read the business magazines and you’ll find lots of executives admitting that plans today are obsolete almost as soon as they’re finalized. At the same time, they like to talk about things like vision and strategic readiness. Peek behind the curtain and you’ll find those are just other forms of planning only by another name. Why the apparent contradiction? Businesses focused on rapid innovation have given planning a bad name. Yet, the fact is, to achieve something you need a plan or a lot of luck. Planning may not be foolproof, but it’s more reliable than luck.
Without a plan it’s very hard to stay proactive. We tend to respond immediately to our environment, which makes it difficult to stay focused on the future for long. If you are not directing your activities toward a desired future (i.e., a plan), what tends to happen is that you quickly fall into a reactive mode. Other people’s priorities take over your time, energy and resources. You wind up solving their business and personal problems, which does nothing to advance your business goals, revenue or profit.
A plan is not a guarantee of success or a prediction of how the future will unfold. It is a road map to guide you to wherever it is you want to go. Without a plan, how can you measure whether you are making progress or determine where you may be veering off course? A well-made plan allows you to evaluate what strategies and practices are moving the needle in a positive direction and which don’t, so you can stop doing what’s not working and redirect your energies and resources toward doing more of what brings you the results you want. Yes, plans have to be modified from time to time, just as you might have to adjust your itinerary when unanticipated delays or obstacles occur. Nonetheless, a plan helps keep you focused on the things that matter so you spend less time on distractions and more time on the essentials. Follow your plan and more likely than not you will eventually achieve your goal. Follow your nose, and you may walk into a wall.