British sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein was once visited in his studio by the eminent author, George Bernard Shaw. The visitor noticed a huge block of stone standing in one corner and asked what it was for.
“I don’t know yet,” Epstein replied. “I’m still making plans.”
Shaw was astounded. “You mean you plan your work?” he asked. “Why, I change my mind several times a day!”
“That’s all very well with a four-ounce manuscript,” replied the sculptor, “but not with a four-ton block.”
Your company is a four-ton block, not a four-ounce manuscript, or at least that is how you should treat it. Operating without a plan leads to a lack of focus and discipline. Proper planning is essential to achieve your greatest potential.
Here are 7 ways planning will help you become a better leader and improve your organization’s chance at true success.
1. Planning creates a map to reach the company’s vision
John Maxwell has a great definition of a leader: “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Most leaders typically live out the first two components of this definition well – they know where they want to lead the company and they model the kind of behavior they expect from their company as they journey toward the future.
But it is the third component of ‘showing the way’ that often trips leaders up because not only are they are unable to paint a compelling picture of the future, but they also can’t articulate the plan to achieve that vision to their wider team. We often compare the Strategic Plans we help companies create to maps that will act as a guide that will allow everyone to journey together toward that preferred picture of the future.
The leader of an organization is the person responsible for ensuring it has a great plan to achieve its vision. While senior leadership should not delegate the essential aspects of planning, there are many tasks leaders should delegate. When your team is led through a proven and comprehensive planning process, it allows the leader to appropriately delegate areas best done by others and realize areas where the organization may need to hire people with specialized skills.
2. Planning diagnoses an organization’s strengths and weaknesses
A plan will not be great unless it first assesses your strengths and weaknesses, both internal and relative to your competition. Planning identifies what is currently working well that needs to be optimized, what is broken than needs to be fixed, what is missing that need to be added, and what is confused that needs to be clarified.
3. Planning increases flexibility
A company that flies by the seat of its pants may be lauded as being organic and flexible, especially for a startup, but in reality, it leads to an organization that is just reacting and surviving, barely keeping its head above water. The best way to become a flexible organization is to get a better handle on current realities and future possibilities, and then make the best plan possible. Mark Chussil says that “In business, the opposite of unpredictable isn’t predictable. The opposite of unpredictable is strategic.”
Great planning cannot prepare for all eventualities. But great planning can increase your company’s flexibility to deal with the unexpected.
4. Planning identifies what to pursue
At some point, high potential opportunities will emerge for your organization. Since time and resources are limited, companies need to ensure they spend their resources on the few opportunities with the greatest chance to produce the highest return, while at the same time mitigating the risk and resources required to pursue those opportunities. Planning helps you capitalize on emerging opportunities.
5. Planning leads to innovation
Your team lives and breathes its work on a daily basis. While team members may think of good ideas, many times they don’t have the right outlet to share the ideas with others. Engaging in an intentional planning process to draw out the best ideas from your team creates a collaborative setting that will see someone share a good idea and the other team members further mold it into an even better plan.
Day-to-day operations are often a barrier to innovation. A good planning process will clear the decks of operational clutter, and allow space and energy for innovation and creativity to flourish.
6. Planning improves your meetings
Most companies have poor meeting habits caused in part by mixing tactical, operational and strategic topics into one given meeting (see “Avoiding “Death By Meeting” At Your Digital Studio”). Engaging in a proven and effective annual planning process improves the focus and quality of meetings throughout the year and actually reduces the amount of time spent in ineffective meetings.
7. Planning allows your team to appropriately work “on” the business
The “whirlwind” of recurring tasks and projects typically consumes about 80% or more of your team’s time. Most companies spend an inordinate amount of time working “in” the business while failing to spend adequate, but incredibly valuable time to work “on” the business.
Since the “whirlwind” of day-to-day and week-to-week ongoing responsibilities is such a strong distraction, leadership must intentionally take time out to work “on” the business by taking their team through an intentional and proven planning process.
Planning truly is the key to turning the vision of your company into reality. If you would like to explore how we help business owners turn their company vision into a reality through strategic planning, we’d be happy to set up a time to talk.
About The Author
Tom Barrett is a sought after strategic planning facilitator and coach to companies, teams and leaders. He is also the Co-Founder of Navigate The Journey, LLC a strategic planning and leadership development company that specializes in focusing and growing digital studios, consultancies, and agencies.