“plans are worthless, but planning is everything”Dwight Eisenhower
You have an idea, a goal so wicked it will make you a superstar overnight and you’ll have all the moneys! Or….your mate asked you to organise next weeks beer appreciation night.
Either way in order to execute there has to be some planning involved, small and simple or big and complicated it doesn’t matter. All plans can use this guide as it’s foundation.
/ what is planning?
The ‘act or process of preparing a detailed proposal, developed in advance, for doing or achieving something’.
Planning is preparatory. It requires forward thought to consider possible events before they occur rather than reacting to events. With that in mind lets break down the five elements to any planning process:
Assess the situation – gather information, understand the environment and identify possible problems.
Establish goals – whats is the objective? define the desired outcome and the measure of success.
Conceptualise – mentally visualise and detail a couse of action that will bring about the desired outcome.
Evaluate – dry run the course of action to identify likely difficulties and adequate cooradination.
Issue a plan – initiate action.
The primary product of planning is a plan. A plan is a series of executable actions that are intended to achieve the objective. It outlines what action will be taken, in what manner, by whom, with what resources and, for what purpose. Plans may be formal or informal, documented or verbal.
Good plans seek to achieve objectives efficiently and economically, and retain a clear focus on the demands that will be placed on theose who excute them. They should be kept as simple as the situation allows and kept fleinle enough to allow adaption and initative. They should be coordinatied but not constrained by corrdination. Effective plans are comprehensive, clear, concise and direct.
Factors to consider:
Simplicity is a fundamental principle for effective plans. A simple plan is easier to
develop and understand. Simple plans are easier to implement, thus reducing the
potential impact of fucking up.
Simple plans are also easier to modify should there be a need to adapt to a changing situation. Plans can be simplified by:
• providing a clear and concise statement of intent
• reducing the number of tasks or actions in a plan for the plan to succeed
• delegating detailed planning of tasks to team members
Integration of plans ensures that plans developed in various organisations achieve unity of purpose. An effective plan is based on a concept of operations which looks one level up and two down to describe how the teams will support the main objective.
Each succeeding echelon’s concept of operations should be framed with the same methodology or embedded within the higher echelon’s concept of operations.
The degree of coordination can affect how simple a plan is. A higher degree of coordination creates a higher degree of complexity. The level of coordination can also affect how flexible a plan is – increased coordination generally reduces flexibility.
The level of detail required also means that highly coordinated plans take additional time to prepare.
This is not to say that coordination is not necessary. Good control and coordination measures remove uncertainty thereby enhancing flexibility. Plans should not add coordination or control measures unless they are necessary for the success of the objective or task.
A plan is not a fixed succession of steps to be slavishly followed but, rather, is a solid foundation for adaptation to changing circumstances.
It is rare that a plan is enacted exactly as anticipated during planning. Therefore, plans must be flexible enough to evolve in response to changes in the situation and allow for action that was not originally planned.
The more uncertain a situation is, the greater the flexibility required.
Ideally, plans allow an organisation to adapt to changes in the situation in two ways: by designing actions or responses in advance of the need to act, and by supporting the exercise of initiative during execution.
Plans can be designed to facilitate initiative – the plan provides a baseline, and the subordinates are authorised to depart from the plan as required in response to the situation within the leader’s intent. While flexibility and adaptability are important, a degree of control and coordination will always be necessary.
Effective planning requires a timely decision and orders being issued to
subordinates. When time is short, the planning process should generate just enough information for the leader to make a reasonably informed decision, and allow time for subordinates to quickly and effectively assess the situation.
///common planning errors
“No-one is thinking if everyone is thinking alike”.General George S Patton Jr
Lack of critical thinking;
Effective planning requires creativity and critical thought. The benefits of higher
participation in planning have already been discussed, but there is a risk that
groupthink will erode these benefits.
Critical thinking is an important skill for planners to develop and exercise because it enables them to challenge accepted norms, to determine the right questions to ask and to answer those questions with an intellectual rigour that might otherwise lack depth.
Rigidity in mindset;
As change is a constant, adaptation is a key to success. Designing flexible plans
that encourage and facilitate adaptation is a good start, but planners must also
actively question existing plans, assumptions and doctrine in light of the unfolding
Leaders and planners must fight for information on the evolving situation and make the necessary adjustments.
Plans are only a start point for further planning.
Trying to abolish uncertainty;
While planners must anticipate what actions will occur and decide how to respond
to those actions, it is not possible for planners to predict the future. Uncertainty
remains a constant.
Leaders and their staff who are not comfortable with uncertainty, and who
do not use its very opaqueness as a weapon, cannot hope to seize the initiative
and overcome a large hurdle. The failure or refusal to accept uncertainty can result in plans that are not sufficiently robust and that fail to provide a sound platform for adaptation to a changing situation.
Another possible outcome is taking too much time to plan. Attempting to abolish uncertainty before issuing the plan can result in a loss of tempo. At best planning provides an informed forecast of how future events will likely unfold and planners must accept this reality.
Seeking too much detail;
Planning brings with it the temptation to over-engineer solutions to problems and
to digress into unnecessary detail. Planners must always bear in mind the need to keep plans as simple as possible.
This ensures that the chance for misunderstandings between the planners and those implementing the plan are minimised, while concurrently maximising the chance of completing a relevant plan in a timely manner.
Over-adherence to process;
While planning processes or methodologies are designed to make planning efficient and effective, they should be applied with judgement. Planners who do not understand the intellectual framework that supports the planning process can be tempted to rigidly follow each step of the process without consideration for the problem they are trying to solve.
Planning methodologies are not an end in themselves, and planners should fit the process to the problem under consideration, rather than rigidly following the process.
reference – army doctrine – planning