Paradox of Plans

Plans are a paradox. On the one hand we have "Failing to plan is planning to fail". And on the other side we have 37Signals atriculating plans are just guesses

Both are correct. A business jumping into Twitter or Facebook without a plan could lead to utter chaos, or worse a PR blunder of nightmare proportions. But a business spending months and months planning to get onto Facebook, still won’t be on Facebook while their competitors are grabbing all the fans. Plus, with the rate of innovation on the social network, by the time the plan is ready the fundamentals may have greatly changed and the planning will need to start all over again.

I’ve now worked in both situations. 

In one example, we had a “guess” about a possible new revenue stream. I didn’t know the size of this particular market, but I knew it was going to materialize and I wanted a piece of the action. I don’t know when either, as this was an opportunity born out of new legislation, but one could reasonably assume we had 2-6 months to prepare. And I also knew I had next to nothing I terms of budget to work.

In there lied the plan. I knew the what, sort of the when, and the how was restricted entirely to inbound marketing practices since my budget was essentially zero. And it worked! The team was able to jump into action, having the end goal in sight and our collective strengths combined to meet it. By the time the legislation passed, we ranked number one in search and had a pipeline filled with ready leads.

I think you can guess how the other example goes. In that situation, the team and opportunity were squandered for months while waiting for plans to be made, discussed and approved. Good ideas, both internal and external were sidelined waiting for “the plan” to transpire and save us all. The team became increasingly disgruntled and immobilized; while partnering companies became disgruntled and uncooperative. Not to mention the competitors who were plowing ahead forging new relationships and the customers who were forgetting our brand with ever greater results.

Plans are important, but one must recognize they are just guesses. Guesses where the market will be, guesses in how our brand will perform, and guesses in the dynamics of the tools and marketplaces where we work. And because of this, our plans can never be concrete or the sole factor in our success. Don’t underestimate the power of your people who are inspired and empowered to realize a company’s mission. Who ever said the best ideas come in boardroom meetings with dim lighting and ugly art on the walls?!