8 reasons to plan even if those plans don’t always work out

“My plan cannot fail because I have considered every contingency,” so said SPECTRE‘s expert planner Kronsteen who had devised a plot to steal a Lektor cryptographic device from the Soviets and sell it back to them while exacting revenge on Bond for killing their agent Dr. No. The line comes from the opening sequence in “From Russia With Love,” one of the best Bond films ever. Without spoiling the plot (although it seems likely to me that few have not seen the film), the plan did fail.

In fact, if we look around at others and at ourselves, we see a history littered with failed plans. So why bother? I mean, if plans fail then why not just plod along and let what happens happen?

Because plans don’t always fail; they only sometimes fail completely. Dwight Eisenhower said that “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

You are far more likely to hit your target if you actually aim at it. True enough, some can get by with no plans at all and they might even accomplish something. But it will be accidental and it will feel incidental.

Ah, there it is. I used the “f”word – feel.

As logical and as structured as are most of us, we are at our core, feeling people. Motivation is emotional, not logical. Decisions to purchase are emotional, not logical. We live, thrive, and survive on the feeling of achievement.

When I teach these principles of vision, strategies, and tactics, I often use this graphic:

Neglecting to plan, shirking the responsibility for planning is to doom yourself and your organization to trivialities. Yes, some good things will happen. Yes, you will accomplish something. But you could do more and accomplish more by the execution of plans. And, you’ll know it, be able to point to it, and feel good about it.

The need for significance is one of the most powerful human necessities, perhaps the most pervasive one. The planning process gives you a sense of control, an emotional boost because you have accepted responsibility and done something about it.

There is an old adage used in the motivational seminar industry but I will risk using it here anyway. It is “People don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan.” (I saw that smirk.)

But it is true.

And it seems silly to say to a seasoned leader like yourself because you have doubtless made plans, well considered and thought out ones, only to have them either fail or face the need for serious revision. Yes, this will certainly occur. I’ve said repeatedly and all along that no plan, regardless of how thoroughly it is though out, ever survives contact with the real world without at least some alteration.

But the alternative is worse, much worse. I’d much rather go down in flames than perish inch by inch.

  1. Plans and planning imply change. They speak of doing something, making something, accomplishing something.
  2. Plans and planning eliminate another reason for procrastination. Plans do not simply list things to do, they must include who will do them, when they will do them, and how they will be done.
  3. Plans and planning build confidence in ourselves and in those we lead. They look to you for decisiveness and action. You feel better about yourself when you make decisions and take action.
  4. Plans and planning create something out of nothing, make more out of less. Ideas mean things, result in tangible differences.
  5. Plans and planning eliminate some surprises (not all…some).
  6. Plans and planning protect you and your assets (people and things) against most losses.
  7. Plans and planning expands your thinking because it forces you to explore options.
  8. Plans and planning force you to examine the future and decide on who you want to be, where you want to be, and what you want to accomplish. It determines your legacy. It does not leave legacy to chance.

You’re the person with vision. It is far too precious to abandon that vision to the fates of chance and circumstance. As John Schaar said, “The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.”


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