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It still shocks me how little planning I encounter everyday. And how unwilling people are to plan. It’s amazing how people just don’t want to accept that a plan might be necessary. Even when things which are fixed, regular and predictable end up causing chaos.

There is a fiction that a plan has to be a grand thing. It has to be coordinated, canvassed, shared, discussed, launched, focus-grouped, drafted, reviewed, revised, incorporated, updated, seek buy-in, obtain input, circulated in draft, re-revised, perfected, issued, implemented, two-week review, three-week review, one month review, revised, re-revised and so on.

Most frustrating, after going through the months of delay to prepare an exquisite plan, is how rarely the plan is graced with matching action. As if the whole reason to have a plan is to say you have a plan and then do what you intended to do all along anyway. In which case, why waste all that time generating a plan?

And  yes I understand why. Human foibles like wanting approval, wanting public endorsement, wanting to have colleague support, perfectionism, ambition and avarice, loosing sight of the goal, the desire to one-up the other and so on  play a part in causing such behaviour.

But, say that you’re that person who actually wants to achieve what they said they’d do and not just talk impressive sounding horse-shit. How do you go about doing that?

From what I have seen, the most successful plans have the following key characteristics:

  1. Plan properly. As the adage goes “if  you fail to plan, you plan to fail”
  2. Plan for today. Any plan that starts in a theoretical place, based on theoretical inputs or on ideal assumptions as to how others will act  is going nowhere.
  3. Prepare a plan quickly. A plan that takes months to prepare is unusable by the time it’s final.
  4. Look unequally into the future. Plans for next week are more detailed than plans for next year.
  5. Assign direct responsibility to an individual. Collective responsibilities are nobody’s responsibilities.
  6. Monitor compliance. A plan with no implementation is a waste of space. A half-implemented plan is a disaster waiting to happen.
  7. Appoint one plan creator. Too many minds is to plans as too many cooks is to broth.
  8. Review a plan using more than one person. Mistakes happen and sometimes, you need to get a third perspective.
  9. An approximate plan, in time, is worth more than a perfect plan a day late. Start working with the plan you have.
  10. Revise a plan when its in use, not before. No plan of action ever survived first contact with the enemy.

Every one of these characteristics your plan lacks increases the chances that you are creating a talking point or an academic exercise, Every failure means that you’re encountering a plan designed to die in committee rather than influence the real world.

On the other hand, if you want to do something, if you want to make something happen, make sure you go about planning it in the right way. Every step you get right will increase your chance of making an impact.

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One Comment

    • James Lewis
    • Posted April 16, 2012 at 11:22 pm
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