The Value of Planning

I talk with people nearly every week who tell me that they can’t plan because “things” change. The thing is, that’s exactly why you need a plan. The greatest value of the planning process may not be the actual plan, it may just be the fact that you stopped long enough to do some planning. 

Plans may not always work but planning always does.

In order to plan we need to think and thinking is always good. We need to think about where we are, where we want to be, and how we can get from here to there. A good planning process will include decision making on how much we are willing to invest to get there. Good planners remember to think of investment in terms of BOTH financial and time investments. 

Good plans of course include timelines for goal achievement to help build a little accountability into the plan and any plan worth the time it took to put it together includes periodic follow-up built into the plan to ensure it’s still on track.

That follow-up is where most planners miss the mark. 

German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke is credited with first saying that “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” In business it’s fair to say that no plan survives contact with reality. In sales it’s safe to say that there has never been a marketing plan that fully survived first contact with a customer. 

Yet many “planners” assume once the plan is complete that the planning is done. The most successful people, from any walk of life, will tell you that planning is never “done.”

All good plans begin with a clear view of the “as is” or current situation and many of those plans fail because they are never adjusted, even though the “as is” will often change.

That’s the biggest reason why what got you where you are will likely NOT get you to where you want to be. Things change, circumstances change, technology changes, customers change, everything changes… and so must your plans.

It’s a great idea to stop on your journey to success once and a while to see where you’re actually at. Look around, see what’s different from the day your initial plan was developed. Determine if where you are at is still aligned with where you want to be. 

If the plan is still aligned with your goals and objectives then perhaps a few tweaks to your plan will suffice. If the alignment is way off perhaps a blank piece of paper is the best place to begin again. 

Most importantly, when reviewing your plan is this: Don’t attempt this alone! If it’s “your” plan, if you developed it, it’s very likely that you’re to close to really see it for what it is. Get help, if you’re a leader then task your people with a review of the plan. If you’re an entrepreneur and just starting out then ask your mentor or someone you trust to periodically review your plan. 

However you choose to review your plan the key is to actually review it, at least a couple of times a year. Things change, if your plan isn’t changing with them then what got you where you are most certainly will NOT get you to where you want to go next.

Don’t See the End Too Soon

I make a lot of mistakes when I play golf. So many in fact that there are days I wonder why I play the game at all. People who play with me would tell you that the biggest mistake I make is that at some point during a round my swing gets too fast and I lose all control over what I’m doing. That’s not entirely true, sometimes my swing is too fast right from the start and never slows down.

That is indeed a big mistake, but it’s not my biggest one. When my swing gets fast my score goes up, the round is pretty much over and there doesn’t seem to be much I can do about it. At least it seems like I can’t.

I think my biggest mistake on the golf course is seeing the end too soon. Here’s what I mean by that. There are days when I play well, at least by my standards. Everything seems to work and I even seem to catch a few breaks. Then I look at the scorecard and start to think….Geez, if I can par the last two holes, or even just bogey them this will be an awesome score.

I instantly stop doing whatever I was doing and boom, the last two holes are double or triple bogeys… or worse. I saw the end too soon and just stopped doing the things I needed to do to successfully complete my round.

One of my mentors once told me that as important as it is to start well, it’s even more important to finish well. I’ve come to learn that’s true, not only in golf, but in most parts of life.

As I publish this post we have about 10 days left in 2014. 10 days left to finish well. These are the days when most people take their foot off the gas and kind of cruise to the end. They are seeing the end of 2014 just a bit too soon.

When I was a high school student, a former Vice-President of the United States came to my school to speak. He had recently lost the presidential election to Richard Nixon. He gave us some advice that I have never forgotten. He said to be careful what you say in your concession speech because it’s really not the last speech of your campaign, it is actually the first speech of your next one.

These final days of 2014 can either be the end of this year or you can choose to use them as a springboard to a successful 2015. You can slow down or you can hit next year running. If your goal is to lose 15 pounds in 2015 you could lose 1 by the end of 2014 and have only 14 left to lose in 2015. You could be 1/15 of the way to your goal before the year even begins.

Here’s the point, you can make all of 2015 better, easier, more productive, and more prosperous by finishing 2014 strong.

As the great philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over til it’s over.” Don’t let your 2014 be over even one day too soon!