Planning. Ugh…it’s so painful. Why, why, why do we bother?
Why do we spend hours and hours poring over our charts, our spreadsheets, our resource profiles and our budgets, trying to get them just right? Why do we tie ourselves in knots, working the plans backwards and forwards to make them as clean and…realistic…as possible?
Because the truth is that at any point in time, we don’t know what will happen next. We think we do, but in reality, we can’t see what is approaching from around the bend. Whilst we may “hope for the best and plan for the worst”, our planned outcomes rarely resemble reality.
So what’s the point? Why bother planning if we never actually track to the plan? Shanan (The Procrastiwriter) challenges us to see planning as a journey of exploration, an opportunity to learn about ourselves, our teams, clients and their expectations.
Shanan’s post reminds me of two refreshing ideas that I want to share.
Firstly, we start planning with nothing. Just as an artist uses his or her senses to interpret the world around them, we create a plan from a blank canvas – adding an outline, blending in colour and texture with our research, precedents, collaboration and expert opinions. We build the plan up, layer by layer as our ideas and understanding take shape.
Secondly, when we take a moment to step back and think about our canvas, we can look back and see where we have come from and what we have learnt along the journey. We can see how the picture has taken on shape and context over the journey.
Just as the artist creates from nothing, we too start our planning without knowing what the final outcome will look like. Planning gives us an opportunity to paint our own canvas; to test ideas and assumptions, to add layers of understanding and context.
Shanan’s post reminds us that we do not need to know the answers at the outset; that it’s OK to learn and re-plan along the way. It reminds us that it is counter-productive to start planning with pre-conceived ideas and to assume that we know everything at the outset.
It challenges us to look at the way we plan and ask ourselves
- Do we start with an acceptance that we do not have all the answers?
- Have we included a series of planning checkpoints, at which we can draw breath and think about how we are tracking?
- Do we consciously take on board the lessons that we learn along the way, feeding them into the loop so that they can help shape the next round of planning?
- Is our plan a “living document” that evolves as we learn more, or does it sit alone and gather dust in the corner?
How do you approach planning? Do you see it as a journey of exploration or as something else? How does Shanan’s post speak to you?