“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near one.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
Planning is an essential skill for leaders. When you fail to plan, you set yourself up for failure. Plans act as a roadmap to ensure that the day-to-day activities you and your team are doing are going in the right direction. It allows you to be flexible and grounded in times of uncertainty. Without a plan, work can be delayed by the slightest hiccups, costs pile up and resources are not allocated properly and efficiently, and the whole team suffers from low morale due to the build-up of stress and uncertainty.
However, planning today no longer looks like applying formulas you learned from business school. Leaders have to be more creative, intuitive, and flexible in their planning to ensure success. The fast-paced environment of this digital world allows us to gather and process new data faster, allowing leaders to re-evaluate plans more effectively and efficiently.
It is then up to us to decide whether the plans should stay as is, or if it needs some tweaking, even totally scrapped and changed from scratch sometimes.
How do plans help ensure success?
Planning involves asking yourself:
Purpose, mission, and vision have been emphasized by all successful leaders in every industry. We need a “why” to keep us going where we want to go. And we need to communicate those expectations properly to our teams.
It also allows us to gauge what tools and skills we need to bring in and provide for our team in order to ensure they are properly equipped and empowered to accomplish the mission. A plan helps us communicate efficiently what is going on, what we should be doing now, and what’s next.
Without a specific plan, everyone will be running around with no proper direction. That means getting tired doing so many tasks, but feeling unsure whether your team has accomplished anything concrete or not, and having no way to gauge it properly. This negatively impacts collaboration, engagement, and team relationships due to all the stress and uncertainty.
Effective decision-making is a process that requires both concrete data and intuition built over years of experience. Everything from budget and materials, to how many new talents should be recruited for the team needs a decision.
Without a plan, you might find yourself with a team full of wasteful and overlapping activities, which can cost money and precious time.
Whatever goal you and your team are trying to achieve, a plan helps you streamline your focus on what’s important, what skills are necessary, and what efforts should be made by who, without wasting precious resources.
When everyone is aligned in the why, what, and when, everyone can be accountable to each other. Timelines are easier to follow when proper deadlines are set, and deadlines are easier to meet when resources are properly allocated and roles, as well as collaboration protocols, are well defined.
Remember that work expands to fill the time, energy, and creativity set for it. Without a plan, nothing gets done on time, and it is hard to gauge “good work” if metrics to evaluate the quality of work are not established ahead of time.
It is easier to improvise when you have all your tools laid out in front of you. Plans aren’t made so you can follow them by the letter. Rather it serves as guideposts that allow your team to be creative and flexible within boundaries. It is easier to come up with a new strategy on the spot if you already have something to work with that you just need to tweak, rather than come up with something new.
Similar to how a blank page can be daunting when you are trying to come up with an output, it is hard to innovate without a pre-existing plan. But having an outline on that page makes it easier to start somewhere, move things around, edit and delete some things, or expound on some points.
It might be tempting to just get an idea started and figure it out as you go along, but getting some planning for a project helps it go smoother in the long run.
Thank you for reading A Brilliant Tribe.