IT'S planning season again! As we kick off a new year, different organizations, big or small, private or government, local or multinational are all into planning sessions these days.
However, unlike in the previous years when these planning sessions are done either offsite or inside conference rooms, most planning sessions nowadays are done virtually.
Planning involves setting objectives and determining the action or actions for achieving those objectives. It is a fundamental exercise of deciding early on what needs to be done when it should be done, how it should be done, and who is going to do it. And since we are on a clean slate at the start of a new year, January is usually considered the best time to set new targets and goals and draw up the required action plans. Although, personally, I believe planning should happen at least weeks prior so that implementation happens on Day 1 of the new year.
But do we really need to plan? Isn’t it more exciting to do things spontaneously and at the spur of the moment?
I once read a quote, “ By failing to plan, you are planning to fail”. With everything that’s happening around us...new challenges, uncertainties, risks, as well as, new opportunities, now more than ever we need to be prepared. By looking ahead into the future, we are able to minimize risks and uncertainties, we are able to prioritize and maximize our resources and eliminate wastage and we are able to uncover and tap new opportunities.
We plan to ensure success. But is it always the case? Can all those well-written plans guarantee our success?
In my more than 30 years in the academe and corporate, I must have attended, participated in, and facilitated all kinds of planning sessions. Even in our own home, planning takes place. Allow me to share my personal observations on why despite the efforts, resources, and time put into it, even the best thought of a plan, still fails.
We set too many goals and action plans. While we want and need to accomplish more, there is wisdom in focusing on a few. Nothing more than 3 goals and 3 action steps for each goal. Anything more will most likely not be sustained or will just remain as a plan, never executed.
We fail to translate our strategic plans to tactical plans. As most plans are done by management teams, they are usually high level and broader in scope. But as they say, the devil is in the details. We need to specify the details of how the overall goals are to be achieved. This includes timelines and schedules (when are the targets and activities expected to be delivered) resource requirements (what do we need to be able to do the activities ) and the person in charge (who is to ensure that targets and activities are being done and delivered). That is why we need to work on just 3 goals at a time given these details.
We fail to properly communicate and get the buy-in of those who will implement the plan. A common mistake of a manager is crafting the action plans by himself and passing them to his members for mere implementation. People are motivated to do and achieve more when they know and understand what they need to do, why they need to do it, and how doing it will affect them.
We do not regularly monitor the plan. Yes, they get monitored but very seldom and irregular. Too late to make the necessary corrections or interventions. Delays, poor execution, and unnecessary wastage can be avoided if only more regular monitoring and tracking system is in place. Remember, what gets monitored, gets done. If we do not inspect it, people assume that we don’t expect it done and delivered.
We plan to expect that everything will happen exactly how we planned it. But things beyond our control happen and can ruin even our most beautiful plans. That’s when we need to activate our Plan B, our “what if” button. Unfortunately, most plans don’t have Plan B. We need to have our backup or contingency plans for those unforeseen and uncontrollable events. What if the support or resource you need is not available? What if there’s a systems glitch? What if the person who’s tasked to do the job leaves the team? So many what if’s to consider. But we should be prepared in case they become realities.
The pandemic taught us the importance of having Plan B. Those who survived and thrived during this challenging time are those who have their Plan Bs in place.
Planning is crucial. Let’s be mindful that a goal without a plan is just a wish. But we have to do it properly. And when the plan doesn’t work, change the plan but not the goal.
So what’s your plan?