The phrase “Failing to plan is planning to fail”, or some variation on that refrain, will be familiar to anyone and everyone reading these thoughts. Widely attributed to Benjamin Franklin, the aphorism has become virtually a cliché in discussions about strategy, especially in respect of business strategies.
However, like the best clichés, it has become popular because its central truth is unarguable – or is it?
Is there any value in considering that given the extent of uncertainties in the world, and particularly the business world, at the moment there really is little point in planning ahead? No-one really knows what they will be dealing with in the next few months so why bother consulting, drafting, discussing, amending, finalising then presenting when the plan may well be ripped up a few days after its inception.
It is often said that in life the only two certainties are death and taxes. To that I would add a third and that is that any economic forecast will be wrong, the only variable is the extent to which it will be inaccurate.
Given that, and the near impossibility of predicting the future political landscape, why spend the coffee and biscuit budget on planning meetings? Business has been lobbying for certainty for years now, but can claim no real success for its efforts.
When the type of leadership that we want (?), or certainly are being given, in the western economies seems to focus more on rhetoric and dogma than clear planned policies shaping how to take a business forward, or even to hold its current position, seems a more difficult task than ever. So why not see how things go and react accordingly once it is clearer which way the wind is blowing, and how strongly?
There may well be a few businesses thinking like that and acting (or rather not acting) accordingly. However, I doubt many of those are reading this magazine.
In reality the response to the questions posed above is that in such times planning becomes even more important, though it does become even more difficult. Instead of one linear plan going forward the well-run business is likely to have variations and options so that it will be in a position to adapt to whatever does come towards it, and thrive (or survive) in whatever environment it finds itself inhabiting.
Whilst it may be tempting to deal with whatever scenario develops and adapt accordingly, in reality such an approach is likely to mean that whatever the business does at that point is likely to come too late.
The pace of change in scenarios in most sectors now means that the businesses that will continue and prosper will be those that adapt the quickest, and exploit any changes whilst their competitors are formulating how to react. So instead of creating one plan that may become redundant you are likely to need to create many that certainly will, but the one that is utilised will be your lifeline.
Just a thought
Do you need to work through more scenarios in your plans?