The unimportance of planning

There is a well-known saying: “Man makes plans . . . and God laughs.” Still, it often seems that this universal knowledge fails to make…

There is a well-known saying: “Man makes plans . . . and God laughs.”

Still, it often seems that this universal knowledge fails to make it to the heads of decision-makers. Planning always happens. The quarterly plans, yearly plans, launch plans, project plans, plans of plans, reviews of plans, and plannings to make some plans. The higher your corporate ranking, the more time you most likely spend on planning, to the point where the best part of your day goes to planning and the rest of it trying to explain why the plans did not work.

Two months back, amid the worst days of the virus outbreak, a friend of mine spent two days in a Zoom call with a Management Board of a major corporation, outlining a 5-year business roadmap. At the very same time, the World stopped being the World as we know it. The extent of the current cataclysm was yet to be comprehended, but one more detailed plan was meticulously crafted, being blown to pieces as we speak.

So, why do some of the brightest people still act so irrationally? The answer is simple — the illusion of clarity creates the illusion of control.

Luckily, the cure is as simple as the problem itself — just stop planning.

Yes, it still makes sense to fill your calendar for tomorrow or agree on the next development sprint’s deliveries. Short-term plans will stick or pivot very little. The further you go, though, the more likely the planning becomes useless. What’s the value of an attempted weather forecast for the second weekend of November? It’s nil. Still, it remains reasonable to check if you need an umbrella for the next day or two.

Plus, it’s essential to distinguish plans from goals. The goals do not need to have timelines attached to them. Some timely ambition, yes. But please, no Gantt charts.

Say, you have the ambition to run 10K in under 40 minutes. You want to achieve that goal within two seasons, perhaps. But should we start with a string of meetings to discuss whether you can make it happen by the end of Q3 or Q4 this year? While at it, also consider the budget for sneakers and nutrition? Let’s even bring some managers in, requesting reports on progress to get some advice in return that you should probably try to run faster to be able to meet the deadline.

There is always more value in going out there and getting some miles in.

The results will follow.

You will be amazed at how much you can accomplish when you stop planning and start doing, both as a person or an institution. Being in control is about confidence, not plans.