Monthly Archives November 2011


Dancing On Plans

“Oh man, I hope the truth doesn’t get me in too much trouble.”

A group of us were sitting around the table at the first meeting of our new networking group. Since most of us didn’t know each other previously, introductions included explaining who we are and what we do. I was explaining my work as an outsourced COO when one of my new friends asked, “So when you start with a new client do you prepare a strategic plan?”

It really wasn’t a question I was expecting – in fact I’d never been asked that before – and I was concerned my response would not be well received. I took a deep breath and responded. “Nope.”

“Good,” my questioner responded. “I see it all the time. Consultants come in and charge $25-35K for a strategic plan that goes on the shelf, never to see the light of day.”

KICK SAVE AND A BEAUTY! Happy dance. Happy dance. Happy dance.

I’m not a big fan of plans. Planning to me is torturous. And too often, it can actually stall progress. What do we guess is the right sequence of activities? What obstacles can we dream up? How do we set a course of action that’s a sure thing? How do we know when we’ve done enough planning?

I am in favor of thought (been known to try it a couple times). I value analysis (I love Excel). But more than anything, I believe that smarts, teamwork, instinct, and action present the best path to progress.

To be clear, I’m not declaring an all-out moratorium on planning.

Business leaders naturally establish targets by having goals in mind: exit timing and sales price; products and services they want to make available; even what work they personally want to do. Knowing the target — defining what success looks like — is a great and necessary first step.

Once you know where you’re aiming, necessary “planning” likely includes defining the roles and activities comprising the desired steady state, developing cost estimates for both the transition and the routine, and getting input from colleagues and advisors to make sure you aren’t overlooking the obvious. But then, it’s time to act.

Once in motion, maintain unwavering focus on the goal. Monitor performance against expectations and forecast. Know that hiccups and missteps will likely occur, but unless and until you see that you can’t get there from here, keep driving.

Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans, right? Live life. Do your own happy dance.

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