“If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there”. – Yogi Berra
Good ideas aren’t worth much; the plan that allows for flawless execution of the ideas can be worth millions. Great leaders always have a plan. Now, I have to admit I am biased. I am very much a “plan the work and work the plan” type of guy. I also read Yogi Berra’s quote above and think, “Funny. But, it’s pretty much true.” Yogi Berra quotes are funny because they are obvious logic. His quotes are also funny because a lot of people don’t practice the logic he is putting forth.
Why is this fundamental concept of great leadership so often missed? In my opinion, we are a society obsessed with action. Obsessed with always having to be doing “something”. In the outdated industrial age business practices, people aren’t being productive when they are sitting and thinking. God forbid they actually sit and think for a while. Then, something might actually get done with great efficiency!
“Doing” is over-glorified and is quite frankly, overrated. “Thinking” is considered by most to be unproductive and is quite frankly, grossly underrated. In fact, some of the most productive days I have ever had in my life were spent staring at a wall; thinking of my vision and how to get to that vision. Now, I don’t think that “doing” is bad. In fact, a lot of people fail because they can’t get to action. I am talking more about doing without thinking and planning. Too much of either one is only to your own detriment.
Planning allows you to organize your thinking. It allows you to plan your actions carefully, analyzing the cause and effect of different actions (which can save enormous amounts of time and energy). In my line of work, I help a lot of visionaries put their visions to spreadsheets. In other words, I take their vision and put it into numbers. Financially, will this work? This is planning. For more on this, check out this article: http://credofinance.com/what-is-strategic-planning-how-can-a-cfo-help-me-with-my-strategic-planning/) We run “what if” analyses to see what can be done and what different plans look like. Doing this not only lowers the risks, but it clarifies the vision and makes it much more likely to come alive. All of this also has very powerful psychological effects of confidence, which can prove to help in a lot of different areas, as you can imagine.
Planning can also allow you to see what the key factors are and the key components of good execution. What are ultimate the key actions that, if they fail, will cause the entire plan to fail? Good planning can identify these things and ensure that corners are not cut in these areas, whether it be time, money, or other resources needed. They are items that are critical to the plan, and they need to be cared for as such.
Planning allows for intentionality and accountability. You might have a vision…but how will you get there? What will you do? In what order? Planning allows for you to act intentionally toward a vision, and creates a roadmap for accountability. Again, plan the work, and work the plan. Big goals can be accomplished by achieving smaller goals on a milestone basis. Most people feel comfortable achieving more simple goals more frequently, as opposed to large goals all at one time. Planning allows for small, more simple goals, to add up to a large goal (the original vision).
Planning allows for clarity when it comes to a leader trying to communicate a vision to followers. The best example I can think of is in politics. A lot of politicians can spout off great ideas, we all know this. But, then, there are people shouting, “what’s your plan??”. That’s because, we like the idea, but we have a hard time giving credibility to your ideas unless we can see that you have a plan to get there. The same is true for any leader in any organization. Planning allows a leader to lay out a roadmap, such that there is buy-in, belief, and inspiration to achieve the ultimate mission. I see this a lot with entrepreneurs and/or business owners that don’t really have planning in their blood. They often get by with their great ideas and grit, but they are usually stressing because they are flying blind and just hoping that things work out. Planning can take the guesswork out and provide a type of psychological stability, confidence, and peace of mind that cannot be bought. If I can show an entrepreneur that the financial plan that follows his vision allows for substantial setbacks, variations, etc. and things will still be ok as long as we take certain actions, that type of information is gold! And, it leads to a much calmer mind and rationale/improved decision making. Without a plan, decisions will likely be dictated by fear, pride, or greed (or a combination of). Not good.
A great leader has a plan that consists of changing simple pictures and organizing them into a larger, beautiful one. A group of people that have wood, nails, and hammers can easily get to work and appear to be very busy. But, without a plan of what is to be built, nothing of value is ever created. Again, as a society, we love watching people being busy hammering nails, but we often neglect the process of planning how that activity will eventually create something of value. This sounds silly and obvious, I know, but it is very true. A lot of people work very hard at things that are not in line with their leader’s mission. Or, if it is, the lack of planning makes it very inefficient and unusually arduous. For some reason, the planning process (someone sitting in silence just thinking) makes us uncomfortable. And, this is getting worse as our culture becomes busier and more susceptible to external stimuli. Good planning will continue to increase the advantage that planners have over people who are just “doers”. Great leaders do both. They create great plans and then execute those plans with intentionally and good old-fashioned grit!
Jesus certainly had a plan. In fact, one could say that he had the “perfect” plan. He gave very clear instructions to his followers on how they could attain the results they wanted. On the flipside, he was working the plan set forth by God. He knew his mission (see week 4), he knew the plan, and he stuck to it. There was a plan and Jesus worked the plan. He often would speak of things that either part of or not part of the plan. He certainly taught us that planning was both godly and productive. If you are of faith, you know that God has a plan. To think of a God without a plan is more scary that I can even imagine. Obviously, planning is important (of eternal importance, in fact). Great leaders can learn a lot from Jesus’ example of good planning.