Do you remember when
planning could be a formal linear process?
Define objective. Get facts. Analyze facts. Create plan. Execute.
Define next objective …
The world moved more
slowly then. Our plans were long range.
We were trained to create
a plan and stick with it – no matter what. Deviating from the plan was failure.
We may have had to adjust
to a bump or two along the way, but we knew where we were headed, what we were
building, and exactly what it would look like when we were finished.
We generally knew the
formula for success.
Things don’t work that way
Our objectives are
abstract and high level – more like working guidelines.
Our existing markets change
quickly and new markets continuously emerge. Our customers continually surprise us.
We have an idea of where
we’re heading (a goal or a target), but we can’t define exactly what we need to
do to get there.
We learn by doing.
If we wait too long to
act, we risk missing opportunities or lagging behind our competitors.
How do we plan when we
don’t know where we’re going, how to get there, or what we’ll need along the
Our plans have to be short
range – measured in weeks or perhaps months. They must be continually reviewed for relevancy.
We can only truly plan as
far as we can see. So our plans must
become a series of shorter plans that pull together toward a goal.
Even the shorter plans
must be fluid, more adjustable.
We must accept that revising
a plan when new information is available is often the correct course of action.
So something isn’t a
failure just because it didn’t unfold
as we planned it. In fact, how we react
to changes is ultimately the measure of success.
While the plan may be
fluid, our guiding principles remain constant.
Knowing and sticking to those
principles is far more important than sticking to a plan – created when we had
less information and less experience (which could have been just last
The real underlying goal
of our actions (and our plans) is to learn, apply that knowledge quickly, and
then learn more.