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Planning Is More Valuable Than The Plan

land use management framework planning Jan 18, 2017

You read that right - the process is more valuable than the product!
There are at least a zillion quotes about how important planning is to achieve success. And that is because generations of experience have proven planning to be a critical success factor – in anything you are trying to accomplish.

“ a good plan is like a road map: it shows the final destination and usually the best way to get there” - Stanley Judd. 
There is a lot of wisdom in that quote beyond the obvious. Clearly we know that a road map improves our chances of a successful journey.  I like to think of plans this way too – it’s a nice metaphor.

But the gold that is not so obvious to everyone, the greater wisdom, is that it is “the planning” that is of greatest value, not the plan.

it is in the planning where you

        • gain knowledge, acquire insight, find inspiration
        • develop an understanding of the system
        • make yourself aware of the risks and rewards of different choices, and
        • develop contingency for the unexpected – which is guaranteed.

 “failing to plan is planning to fail” 

Google returns about 28 million results when you search for this quote. So lots of people talk about it – but how many do it well? The most important part of that quote is that you must plan – not get a plan – it’s a verb, an action. You don’t go to STAPLES and buy your business plan, you must do the planning yourself or it is of little value.

OK, the bones of your plan may stay in tact through the life of the project – it does happen, but more often than not, this isn’t the case. Plans are living documents that change and need to be flexible and allow you to respond to obstacles and the unexpected with conviction. While your plan’s expiry date may be coming up fast, the process of developing the plan will serve you infinitely.

“I just want to get going”

OK, so you have this killer app idea, or you’ve figured out your passion and you are chomping at the bit to monetize it. You have a huge desire to start “doing something” and getting this ball rolling already! I understand that feeling – but I also know you can waste a lot of energy, time and $ working on something that nobody wants.

There’s no more sinking feeling than working your butt off for 30 days straight, or 90 days or 365 days and realizing you have to start over again because even though you put the arrow dead center in the bull’s-eye, you were aiming at the wrong target.

Planning helps you nail the right target because the process forces you to really take stock and understand first what you want to accomplish, why it is important, and what you are willing or able to do to get it. You might be thinking, “of course I know these things”, but it has been my experience that when we have to write it down and connect the dots, it becomes obvious that you need to do some more thinking.

Allocating 5-10% of the total project time and effort to planning for its success is very wise investment with an excellent return, especially compared with having to re-do a project from scratch.

You could think of it as opening the door into a dark room of possibility that you need to cross. You can shine a flashlight around and try to get a sense of what lies ahead (exploring not planning) or you can hit the light switch and light up the room so you have the big picture and can clearly evaluate what is the best path (planning).

Here are some key takeaways to keep in your mind:

Planning will:

  • Help you understand the outcomes you want which means you can visualize the end and stay laser focused
  • Make you consider the reasonable range of options available and provide a structured method to choosing the one that fits you and what you want the most
  • Bring clarity and clear away the noise and confusion created by a jumble of ideas, actions, demands and desires
  • Help you break down the big undo-able into small, easy do-ables
  • help you share your vision, intentions, and goals with others so that collaboration can happen. Teams need a game plan – this is yours – and it is often in teams where magic happens

Planning is one of the secret ingredients of success that enables you convert a wish to reality.