Why your planning sucks… and what to do about it

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”Dwight D. Eisenhower

Over the years, I have the fortune or misfortune to be involved or observe various disastrous planning activities. Most of the time one could tell things were not likely to end well. Why then did these continue to an eventual bad end? Simply because people confused planning with plans.

Plans are the documentation of the activity at a specific point in time, not the end state. Too often plans are viewed as cast in cement, never to be changed, even in the light of an approaching cliff. The question then becomes why? From observations, I’ve conclude that much of it revolves around ego. If I’m the manager I’m supposed to have all the facts and answers. And my decisions cannot be changed as these are personal commitments and a change would reflect poorly on me.

What is needed in management now is like what happened in various design professions “Egoless… programming, etc.

A simple categorization of why changes to plans are needed often reflect aspects that are often not in control of management at the time a one and done plan is made and being executed.

  • Results from activities is not as expected
  • Conditions have changed since the plan was developed
  • Another factor has surfaced or has more impact than anticipated
  • New options have surfaced

All of these infer the need to adapt or adjust one’s plans. So why in business do we continue down the wrong path in the light of these. We’re back to plans vs. planning; cement verse wayfinding. If one adapts the notion of real options in planning, this might address the situation where planning becomes day to day activity rather than a concrete list of tasks to check off. Which may have us focus on desired outcomes rather than actions that we hope provide results.

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About briankseitz
I live in PacNW in a small town and work for Microsoft as a Enterprise strategy and architecture SME. I enjoy solving big complex problems, cooking and eating, woodworking and reading. I typically read between 4-8 business and technology books a month.

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