Plans Are Useless, but Planning is Indispensable

Plans are useless but planning is indispensible

“In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” – General Dwight D. Eisenhower

Too often companies are seeking silver bullets. They jump from trend-to-trend and solution-to-solution looking for easy answers. It just doesn’t work that way. Building a business is hard work, and planning is an essential step in the process. How else will you know what matters, where you are going and how you will get there?

Planning is a key component of our business. On Tuesday, my team and I held an offsite meeting to develop our strategic plans for our upcoming fiscal year. This is a process we go through annually. Every year we hold an offsite planning session followed by half-day quarterly reviews. The purpose of these meetings is not to write a glamorous strategic plan. The purpose is to refine our strategy, question all the variables, set our priorities and get setup to execute.

It all boils down to execution

Our planning sessions are facilitated by a Strategy Consultant, Jim Stewart of ProfitPATH. One of the things Jim frequently tells us is, “Finding the right strategy is not enough. Success depends on how well the strategy is executed.”

Plans are just plans until you implement them. Your success is directly linked to how well you can execute your strategy.

Planning supports execution. When you plan with your team on a regular basis it creates buy-in, but more importantly it provides accountability. No one wants to show up to the quarterly review and say, “Guys. I dropped the ball. I didn’t do what I was expected to.” That’s unacceptable. Lack of action lets everyone down.

Planning provides the structure and expectations required to execute. It gets everyone on the same page, defines what needs to be done, why it needs to be done and who is responsible for what.

Don’t get caught up in the jargon

When you get into strategy and planning you can easily get caught up in the MBA speak. Don’t. Planning doesn’t have to be that complicated. When you aren’t looking for silver bullets, you can focus on defining your vision and implementing it.

For example, Jim asks 3 simple questions to help us discuss our mission statement, goals and strategy:

  1. Why did you start the company? (This is basically your mission statement)
  2. What do you want to get out of it in 3 years? (These are your goals)
  3. How are you going to get there? (This is your strategy)

Jim will be the first to tell you that these questions are overly simplified. But for me, they are great. I hate carefully worded mission statements that don’t say anything. They’re useless. I want to get beyond the jargon, and develop a clear strategy that we can execute. As General Eisenhower said, “plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”