The Value of Planning When Plans Go Awry

by | Feb 3, 2022 | Productivity

This video is an excerpt from a live training session with Chrissy Scivicque, Career Coach & Corporate Trainer. The full video (“The Basics of Flexible Planning”) is available in the Career Success Library.

The article below summarizes the video content.

Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.”

This is a quote from Dwight D. Eisenhower, our 34th president here in the United States. You may not realize that Eisenhower was actually a real thought leader around time management and prioritization. A lot of things that he talked about back in the 50s still apply today. They are really the foundations of a lot of these concepts that we talked about.

So I love this quote of his: Plans are nothing, planning is everything.

What he’s really saying here is that the discipline of planning serves us well, even if the plans we create are rarely implemented precisely. I think we all have heard the saying that “man makes plans and God laughs.” Right?

What this is saying is that it’s not really about the plan itself. Nine times out of 10, we can’t follow the plans that we create because of unexpected circumstances and things that come up out of nowhere. But that doesn’t mean that we should completely abandon the process of planning, because the process of planning has benefits in and of itself, regardless of the actual plan, regardless of the outcome that we’re working on creating.

So let’s talk a little bit about that idea. Because for me, this is this was a really big perception shift. When I first had this realization, that it’s not so much about the outcome of the plan, it’s more about the process of planning….when I first had that realization and understanding, it felt very dramatic! It felt like a big “aha” moment. So perhaps some of you will have a similar “aha” moment.

What is the value of planning, if it’s not about actually creating some plan that we’re going to be able to use as a roadmap moving forward? If it’s not about that, what’s it about? It’s about the process.

The process of planning helps us to reflect on the future, to visualize an outcome and organize toward it.

It helps us to visualize an outcome: to really be aware of the destination that we ultimately want to get to. It is always a smart idea to know the direction that you’re aiming in. Right? If you get into a car, and you’re going to take a road trip, it’s a good idea to start by knowing the destination that you’re aiming for. Even if along that road trip, there are detours and road closures and things that you have to do that take you off course. It’s still helpful to know what that ultimate destination is that you’re trying to aim for.

It also pushes us to predict challenges, problem, solve, make decisions, and formalize our thinking. So when we sit down, and we engage in the process of planning, it encourages us to think deeper about what it is that we’re trying to achieve and all of the dynamics that are involved in that. We’re sitting down and we’re being more deliberate in the choices that we’re making. Simply through that process of planning, we’re engaging in a deeper way with our goals. And by engaging in that deeper way, it trains us to more intelligently anticipate and respond to uncertainty and complexity in the moment.

Uncertainty and complexity are certainly two key characteristics of our world. Right? We want to be able to respond to those things. When we engage in the process of planning, regardless of whether or not we can perfectly follow the plan, that process helps us to be more mentally agile, to be able to anticipate and respond to all of these different factors, all these things that are going on, even if we’re not following that plan perfectly.

The mere act of going through planning does that because we’ve engaged our brain in that deeper way. We now have this deeper understanding of what it is that we’re trying to achieve. We’ve looked at the possible challenges, we’ve predicted, we’ve anticipated and now when things go awry around us, we’re able to quickly and easily respond to them because we’ve already gone through that mental engagement process.

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About the Author

Chrissy Scivicque is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and certified Professional Career Manager (PCM). She is an author, in-demand presenter and international speaker known for engaging, entertaining, educating and empowering audiences of all sizes and backgrounds. Learn more here.

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