Planning is a tool, not a mandate

medium_2512080327Planning is your detailed proposal of how things will be done. It is the tool that translates your vision or mission into reality.

However, we may work in teams that at times may become  disillusioned that plans are the Holy Grail. There is no built-in flexibility planning to respond to change. When groundbreaking opportunities arise, it becomes difficult to capitalize on them. These opportunities may perhaps help resolve a significant portion of the plan.

Without a culture of harnessing unexpected opportunities, the space to innovate hardly exists [TweetMe]. Innovation is what drives the new ideas, products or methods that give your organization the competitive edge. When plans are viewed as a mandate (an order to do something), they create tension and frustration due to the inflexibility. This may result in apathy, with teams just trudging along to get the bare minimum output that the plans requires of them.

Therefore I always need to remind myself that planning is a tool not a mandate. Planning should direct me on how to get to my desired vision or mission in the most effective and efficient manner. To transition from the ‘mandate’ mentality to the ‘tool’ paradigm, I need to start doing the following.

Overcome fear

I have to overcome my fear to cut parts of the plan that are holding back progress. When the prevailing environment of my business, organization or family suddenly changes mid-stream, will I stick with the original plan or re-position myself to advance?

As in any an excursion, after I map out the route, the next thing I will do is identify the magnetic North on my compass. This becomes my beacon for reference. Along the way, I may come across a roof-rack-high rock on my track. Will I plow through the rock or re-route to progress? The answer is obvious; I will find an alternative route but make sure that my compass is at hand to bring me back to my intended route.

What then is holding me back in making changes to my plan that will drive my vision? FEAR is holding me back… Fear of looking like a jackass that ‘failed’ to plan well. If I can’t execute the plan, then it is useless to keep at it [TweetMe].

Strategy gets you on the playing field, but execution pays the bills. ~ Gordon Eubanks, a microcomputer industry pioneer

Embrace innovation

To innovate is to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products. Status quo and innovation are not good bedfellows. One can’t thrive if the other prevails.

As innovation takes place, lessons are learned along the way (hopefully). Some lessons may be to my benefit while others may be at a cost. Whichever the case, it will require me to change my tack. A change in plans and the status quo is inevitable. I am now a little wiser to budget time and resources to innovate.

The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it. ~ General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

Reward harnessed opportunities

It is important to realize that opportunities are those things or ideas that lie between the available options. As Sandro da Silva notes, “Leaders profit when they realize that the two options they see are only extremes of a continuum“.

If my team harnesses emerging opportunities that amplify my vision, I need to be very agile to reward their efforts. Engaging with my team is critical to the survival and progress of my strategic objectives.

According to ‘Gullup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace Survey’ in an article published in the New York Daily News, 70 per cent of the workers are no longer inspired by or engaged in what they are doing. Could this be explained by the fact that they do not feel that they are appreciated?

“Jim Clifton, Gallup’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement that poor management was one of the leading causes for employee disengagement. Many surveyed complained of ‘bosses from hell’ who ignored talent and didn’t cultivate growth.” [Source: New York Daily News]

1) Will you reward harnessed opportunities to increase engagement with your followers?
2) Will planning be a TOOL or MANDATE going forward?

(This post was inspired by Mark Miller’s article “Today’s Challenge: Unexpected Opportunities”. Thank you Mark for your inspiring work.)

photo credit: andyi via photopin cc


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  1. #1 by Susan Thorn on July 26, 2013 - 3:21 pm

    You hit it out of the park for me this morning. I have two focused work group meetings today and your post just helped me to plan my agenda. Leading them from planning to moving in the direction of our magnetic north will be a snap. Thank you!

    • #2 by KimunyaMugo on July 26, 2013 - 11:07 pm

      Awesome Susan. I’m super-excited that I made a positive contribution.

  2. #3 by VizwerxGroup (@VizwerxGroup) on July 16, 2013 - 3:39 pm

    Thanks for your post! It got me thinking about a body of “projects” I’ve worked in the past. I would suggest that planning becomes a mandate so often because projects are launched not with a “suggested timeframe” for execution; but, rather a demanded time for execution. I can think of dozens of projects I’ve been a part of where the project completion time was determined long ahead of anything “work” associated with the project itself – and by folks who were not involved in completing any of the work. (Managers booking expected cost savings, for example….) The expense associated with many efforts requires time frames be associated with completing them. In theory, I agree that time should be built in for innovation. Granted, many of the efforts I have been involved with have been associated with IT spending & have required strong ROI’s to move forward. Every single one that I can think of were time bound. In essence, that made much of the planning much more of a mandate than a strong suggestion.

    • #4 by KimunyaMugo on July 16, 2013 - 5:03 pm

      Thanks for your comments Joy Guthrie (@VizwerxGroup), you are right about short-term projects. At a personal level, I have eventually gotten to that point where planning becomes a necessary tool after a series of ‘projects’. I constantly remind myself on the need to ‘innovate’ to remain a useful leader in my field.

  3. #5 by Dan Forbes (@DanVForbes) on July 16, 2013 - 2:26 pm

    Planning like many other tools in the hands of the wrong people is ineffective. We too often are not connected with the Vision or the Goal. We get wrapped up in the “how” without first understanding the “why.” Thanks.

    • #6 by KimunyaMugo on July 16, 2013 - 2:29 pm

      Absolutely Dan. Thank you for your insights…

  4. #7 by John Thurlbeck (@JHT29) on July 16, 2013 - 10:22 am

    Hi Kimunya ~ I really enjoyed the post and have many different thoughts on planning, most definitely that it is a tool … and, like most tools, if it is blunt it won’t work well! I’d also offer a stage before thinking smarter, although I agree entirely with David that working harder/faster/cheaper is often a default position! My view would tend to be if something is not working, return to purpose! Why are we doing what we are doing …and are we clear about that. If so, it is likely the answer to our problem will reveal itself! Then we can focus on working smarter!

    • #8 by KimunyaMugo on July 16, 2013 - 10:40 am

      John, I absolutely love your reminder… “if something is not working, return to purpose”. Purpose-driven, I like it!

  5. #9 by davidhain on July 16, 2013 - 9:58 am

    Nice one Kimunya! I particularly liked the tweet quote about changing things that aren’t going right, and have shared. The default mode of many people and companies I work with is “if it’s not working, do it harder/faster/cheaper” – too rarely ‘smarter’…

    • #10 by KimunyaMugo on July 16, 2013 - 10:00 am

      Thanks David for reminding us that ‘smarter’ wins the day…

  6. #11 by KimunyaMugo on July 15, 2013 - 8:34 pm

    Thank you for the ‘Scoop’ David Hain…

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