‘In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.’
Dwight D Eisenhower
This might seem like a strange quote for a planning site, but it makes an important point. Often the planning process is more valuable than the plan.
Whatever plan you have, as soon as you start to take action – whether it’s a business launch, a new market entry, restructuring (or a battle) – things happen – events.
We’ve all encountered the situation where a carefully prepared business, marketing or communications plan runs into unexpected obstacles as soon as it’s applied. Competitors may react unpredictably, economic situations change, costs fluctuate. Good managers don’t allow themselves to be slaves to the plan but react intelligently, adapting to changing situations while keeping their eyes on the objective.
Another great strategist, Von Clauswitz, observed that in ‘the fog of war’ there is no strategy, it all depends upon the intuition of the great generals. However, intuition is valueless unless it is grounded on a sound planning process.
Remember the objective.
If a plan appears to diminish in value in the face of events, it is absolutely essential to have a clear objective. If the objective is sound and the planning process has considered options and directions, tactical actions and movements can safely be left to experience and intuition. In fact, it is a much stronger approach than sticking rigidly to plans.
Flexibility permits creative and innovative tactical actions.
The steps should be:
- Set your objective. This should be ‘big picture’. Be clear on what you want to achieve, often SMART objective setting can be a useful discipline. Sometimes you will need ‘fuzzy goals’, particularly if you are seeking to generate new ideas. However, an identified objective is still required to give direction.
- Go through the planning process, individually or collaboratively. This is where options can be explored, responses prepared, resources calculated and identified, and potential pitfalls considered.
- Do it.