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Planning on Purpose

April 27, 2011 10 comments

Leadership PurposeThere are generally two camps when it comes to planning—those who love it and those who hate it.

Those who love it generally enjoy the comfort of knowing what to expect and being prepared to answer questions like, “what are we doing?” “What happens next?” “How are we going to get there?” Unfortunately, sometimes they love planning so much that they never get around to actually executing.

In the other camp, those who hate planning generally dislike wasting their time working on a course of action that will never actually come to pass. No one can anticipate every possible scenario, so why not just wing it? While they leap into execution, they usually hemorrhage time and effort that could have been purposely applied—had they invested in a little planning.

To lead successfully, you must take the best from each extreme while avoiding the pitfalls of each. To do this, you must understand the true purpose of planning:

The Purpose of planning is to help you achieve a goal. Nothing more nothing less. Planning serves this purpose by:

1. Bridging the gap between here and there. This bridge is the basis off which you as a leader can adjust to the developing situation. It’s much easier to shift and change something that already exists, than to make up something new in the spur of the moment.

2. Facilitating better decisions. The process of planning front-loads your thinking. It challenges your assumptions  while forcing you to consider the factors that could affect your execution. This allows you to prepare yourself for contingencies and generally increases your awareness of the situation, thus allowing you to make faster, better solutions.

3. Coordinating efforts. Planning gets everyone and everything on the same sheet of music. A well constructed plan that is well communicated can quickly align the disparate members of a team. It’s also critical for making sure you have the resources that you need when and where you need them.

Whatever you do, keep your plans on purpose. Often plans take on a life of their own. The moment people start to focus on executing the plan rather than achieving the goal, the plan begins working against itself.

How do you keep your plans on purpose?