I tell this story to illustrate the truth of the statement I heard long ago in the Army: Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. There is a very great distinction because when you are planning for an emergency you must start with this one thing: the very definition of “emergency” is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning.
– Dwight D. Eisenhower
Variability is a fact of life in just about every facet of life, development and business not withstanding. A plan, in and of itself, is a static thing. Your plan will be 100% effective if you anticipate everything correctly and all of your assumptions prove true. However, cognitive biases get in our way most of the time. As another famous quote says:
No plan survives contact with the enemy.
– Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke
This recognizes the inherent flaws humans have in being able to lasso the inherent unpredicatability of the world.
Why planning is useful
1. Planning minimizes the number of emergencies you could face. OK, so we know your plan may not come true. However, because you created the plan, you did anticipate some outcomes. If any of those outcomes are true then you are prepared and will not be reactant to an unplanned situation. The more encompassing you make your plan, with more contingencies accounted for, the less reactant you will be in your endeavor. The less you plan, the more likely you are to face emergencies because you haven’t bothered anticipating anything.
You can always amend a big plan, but you can never expand a little one. I don’t believe in little plans. I believe in plans big enough to meet a situation which we can’t possibly foresee now.
– Harry Truman, US President
2. Planning hones skills needed to be reactant to change. This is because, when an unexpected thing hits, you immediately enact your planning skills to create a new plan that accounts for the emergency. If you aren’t practiced at planning you will be at a disadvantage and always in a state of reactance.
Those who plan do better than those who do not plan even though they rarely stick to their plan.
– Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister
Conquering the problem with plans
it is interesting to note that the original problem that started my research is still outstanding – namely the problem of planning or scheduling dynamically over time, particularly planning dynamically under uncertainty. If such a problem could be successfully solved it could eventually through better planning contribute to the well-being and stability of the world.
– George Dantzig
Unfortunately George, this problem is never going to go away. The only solution is learning the art of planning. Those skilled in planning then produce plans that anticipate as much as possible, observe what actually happens and then react to the unexpected by creating a new plan. Wash, rinse, repeat. Its a never-ending cycle. If you never plan, you never become fully able to deal with emergencies yet you fill your life with emergencies by the pure act of failing to plan.
If you fail to plan you are planning to fail.
– Benjamin Franklin, US Statesman
- No Plan Survives First Contact With Customers – Business Plans versus Business Models : http://steveblank.com
- Project Management: Plans are useless, planning essential : http://itprojectguide.blogspot.com
- Expect Unexpected : http://blog.brodzinski.com/