A Few Thoughts About Planning

There is an interesting discussion going on right now. Actually, it’s been going on for a few years. There are some people that argue against planning: “Why plan today? The world is so volatile! Any plan is typically rendered useless within a few weeks or months.” And then there are others who argue that planning is more important today than it’s ever been: “Planning helps us prepare for the future. It helps us consider our options.” I personally support the later opinion. Planning is a critical process today.

Plans help us:

  • Understand what the future could look like
  • Open our eyes to opportunities and risks
  • Develop options
  • Determine goals and objectives which allow us to perform
  • Test assumptions
  • Reperceive our view of the world

But….plans cannot be accurate today, right? True. They cannot. It would be nice if they were…sort of. But that’s not the point.

“The end result…is not an accurate picture of tomorrow, but better decisions about the future.”, Peter Schwarz

Will the importance of planning diminish in the future? I am not sure about that. On the contrary. The more volatile things get, the better prepared we have to be. But that does not mean that plans are set in stone and that plans are super detailed. They can’t be. They shouldn’t be. They need to be agile and flexible.

Where should we go?


What if we did not plan at all? Smart people have thought about that. Here are their thoughts. Interestingly, none of them are business people:

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”, Benjamin Franklin

“In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.”, Robert Heinlein

“Where no plan is laid, where disposal of time is surrendered merely to chance of incident, chaos will soon reign.”, Victor Hugo

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” – “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. – “I don’t much care where–” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat. “–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation. “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”, Lewis Caroll


Think about some of these ideas when you prepare your annual business plan, budget or strategic plan. It is tough. But we should put the effort into this. Chaos and confusion is not a good option today. However, we should think about how we plan. How about all that detail? How about those long and difficult processes? How about those vast amounts of spreadsheets? There is a better way.



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5 responses to “A Few Thoughts About Planning”

  1. Well said. I believe in “abstract planning”, a mere guideline of what you want your end results to be along with a few key points of action on how to get there. We must be flexible and agile to steer the plan as we encounter bumps in the plan’s road to ultimately get to our desired destination. Thanks for the quotes, too. I named my dog after Victor Hugo!!

    1. cpapenfuss

      Hi Holly – Thanks for your comment. Love your ‘abstract planning’ idea. That’s the way it should go (while still being able to identify risks and opportunities). Christoph

  2. Mahfuz Khalili

    Nobody does anything at his/her will without planning – instant, formal, longterm or informal.

  3. You need scenario planning more than ever. Put together Good, Bad, Ugly scenarios to understand whether you will get to the destination or not.

    1. cpapenfuss

      Hey Ned – Great to hear from you. Long time no talk. Agree. Scenarios are key.