A favorite military expression among commanding officers during training exercises is “Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance”. Although it is an alliterative mouth full, the message clearly resonates to from the sender every time. Today’s hard work will be tomorrow’s fuel for execution; but what if I told you that we can over plan. What if I told you that plan Bs, Cs, and Zs are often clutter in an already complicated life of managing and implementing your organization’s mission focused objectives. That’s exactly what I am telling you! I am not discounting that planning and training is less essential to any organization, I am simply emphasizing a need to remain focused on what we are trying to accomplish with each challenge that we take on. The game plan should always be carefully thought out and crafted, inevitably, sometimes it has to change, but don’t forget what you are trying to accomplish.
There are certain things that we should never waste our time with during planning work and activities. Very often we plan around weather forecasts, personnel availability, and contingency plans. Certainly these are critical aspects of the planning process, but they are never why we develop plans. Having a “the show must go on” attitude towards planning will help to see objectives delivered in a more simplistic and accurate way.
Weather should always be considered in planning, but if you are working outside the answer is simple. Abandon efforts and do something else if the weather prohibits you from producing. Never include canceling work because of the forecast. Weathermen are, at best, right half the time. Don’t throw away the possibility of a good days work because of the weather report. Also, since the widespread media attention and frequency of natural disasters, coupled with a highly litigious population, more and more employers are suspending their normal operations during weather events. Don’t decide to delay starting or finishing a project or assignment on the probability of not being at work for any part of a day. Remember, the show must go on!
Our key and essential personnel are exactly that. We all have employees that are our go to guys and girls. If you catch yourself planning work around one or two employees it is imperative that you increase your talent base and resources. You can’t limit your outputs because of a lack of talent. This can be done through better recruitment, cross training, or maybe just giving other employees a chance to prove they are capable. Plans often stall and even dissolve over this totally avoidable obstacle. We never want to catch ourselves planning around good or, more times than not, bad employees. Everyone is guilty of this so cultivate and trust your staff and let the show go on!
Burdening yourself with the details of contingency plans is a sure fire way to fail. Even when a situation that has unknown variables involved presents itself, the reality of executing plan B with the exacting skill as the original game plan is more like a fairy tale than anything. If you haven’t been to the pharmacy lately, there is pill called Plan B and its ingestion is the result of completely avoidable actions more times than not. I could make a case against most Plan Bs just by having better Plan As. However, when the prospect of the original plan becoming complicated or obsolete is likely, make broad plans as contingencies. The fewer details the better with contingencies. Focus on the goal and make discerning concessions to achieve the desired outcome. Let’s face it, very few of us will ever be faced with planning something as tactile as a Seal Team Six raid, or anything of life and death for that matter. Plan B, if you still feel confident calling it that, should always be a fluid decision making process that relies on known facts and your organization’s collective expertise. During church in Uganda last Fall, the power grid, as it does often, dropped the electricity to an entire city block. Did the congregation get up and leave? Was there a detailed backup plan? Nope, the preacher preached a little louder and the show went on!
An elderly gentleman dropped his wife off at the mall one day and I grabbed the seat next to him on the sturdy wooden bench near a empty fountain. He looked as if he had been sitting there for a while, but was rather content and unusually patient for an old man. From a distance he saw his wife coming down the concourse and stole a quick glance at his watch in mid-conversation with me. After I completed my thought, he interjected “11:15, she’s right on time. Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together!” His bride helped him up and he couldn’t help but notice the Sears bag in her other hand. “Sears wasn’t part of the plan”, he jeered. She replied, “No it wasn’t part of the plan, but neither was me changing the time back an hour on your wristwatch!
Sometimes we have to remember that a plan is nothing but wasted brain power without confident and intelligent execution.
If Middle Management had a list of crimes that we commit and associated punishments, Killing a Plan or Unnecessary Interment of a Plan by Over Planning would be capital offences. Don’t contribute to the death of a good plan by forgetting what you are actually trying to accomplish.