In Change, Leaders, Strategy

“It’s a bad plan that admits of no modification.” – Publilius Syrus

One of the parts of my career I enjoy the most is helping organizations plan for their future. One of the parts that’s less enjoyable is listening to people complain about planning for their future. Leaders ask if we can help them with planning, and the looks on their faces would make you think they’re asking for a root canal.

One of the main reasons for that is most organizations have a bad history when it comes to planning. Lots of things may have gone wrong, but one thing that’s a consistent skeleton in the closet is the experience of having put together what seemed like a great plan, only to look at it again a year later and realize they didn’t attempt to execute any of it, and in some cases it’s no completely irrelevant. All that work and nothing to show for it.

There are dozens of problems we could discuss here, but one that I’ve run into often recently is that most organizations don’t work agility into their plan for their future.

You can’t just put together a plan and then do it “no matter what”. There’s a fine line between being persistent and being stubborn. We live in a world of almost constant change. People change, markets change, customers change, competitors change, technology changes – you get the idea. Why shouldn’t you expect you plan to have to change? Don’t just work out a plan and blindly pursue it. Make a point to…

Recalibrate on a regular basis. Part of executing whatever plan you develop is to revisit the foundation of that plan regularly. I would argue that at least every 90 days (if not more often) you need to think about whether your plan is still relevant. Have some of your underlying assumptions changed? Have unexpected barriers popped up? Has some major disruption happened in your industry?   Make sure that what you’re trying to do still matters.

Make sure your plan has guard rails. Every good plan has some key performance indicators (KPI’s), or metrics, to measure progress. Assuming you’re measuring the right things, KPI’s can give you early warning that what you’re doing isn’t working. It might be that your vision is right, but how you’re trying to attain it is all wrong. You might think you’re on the right path, but make sure the actions you’re taking are having the results you want. If not, it may be a sign that the plan needs to change.

Don’t let yourself get stuck on how great your current plan is. It’s not some work of art that must be preserved. Planning is an evolving process of trying to reaching your vision. Make sure agility is part of that process.

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