In Action, Change, Leaders

“To succeed, planning alone is insufficient.  One must improvise as well.” – Isaac Asimov

In the past, we’ve spent a lot of time in this space talking about planning and focus and being intentional about what you do.  You can’t just take off running in any direction and assume things will work out.  Success requires some thinking ahead.

That said, we all know that nothing ever goes exactly as planned.  Some challenge comes up, some key person leaves, some customer has a disaster that requires our attention, some competitor makes an unexpected move, and so on.  Whatever it is, it ends up derailing part of the plan.

Then what?  What do you do when your perfect plan, which of course is supposed to result in the perfect outcome, hits a snag?  How do you respond?  If most people were really honest, they’d say they just give up and go back to plodding along on a daily basis.

We put so much energy into our planning, and were so unrealistically hopeful, that when it doesn’t work out we’re crushed, and we quit.  We think that the fact that we stumbled into a barrier means that the planning was a waste of time, our efforts were in vain, and I guess we’ll never take the time to do that again.  That maybe sounds extreme, but it happens over and over again.  I was told by someone not that long ago (direct quote): “We had a planning session 15 or 20 years ago, but we didn’t really get very far with implementing it, so we’re not gonna waste our time doing that again.”

The reality is, you need to go into both planning and implementation with your eyes wide open.  No matter how well you plan, things will change, and sometimes for the worse.  It’s not a sign of failure or that you wasted your time.  It’s just the world we live in.  Part of that planning and implementation has to include the recognition that things will change and we’ll have to adapt.

Some barriers might be ones that can be anticipated.  If you can anticipate it, then think in advance how you might respond.  If you can’t anticipate it, then have some kind of process or structure in place to recognize when you’ve hit a barrier and address it.  Part of the problem is that too many groups make a plan, start to implement it, and then never get together again.  When the plan goes haywire, they don’t talk about solutions, they just wait until the next time they meet, which is probably too far down the road to do anything about it.

Think about your future, and plan carefully, but include in that planning the idea that things will change and we’ll have to adapt.  Having to change on the fly doesn’t make your plan a failure.  Not changing on the fly does.  Be ready.

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