“A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door.” – Confucius
It is understood that at this time of year most management consultants, executives and CEOs are talking about the importance of planning. It can all get a bit much – what are we planning for and does it really help? And what does it mean to those of us who are not personally responsible for running the organisation?
Taking a step back, let’s look at this from a practical sense that relates to you. Think about the last meeting you ran that went really well – when you left the meeting feeling that you had achieved what you set out to achieve. It might have been a meeting giving feedback to an employee, a cross-functional meeting you were facilitating or a meeting where you had to challenge your boss on something important.How did you feel when you left that meeting? On a scale of 1 – 10 (10 being very high) how satisfied were you with the way you conducted the meeting? What did you do well in the meeting that led to a good discussion or outcome?
Now let’s think about what you did before the meeting – did you by any chance plan how the meeting would flow, plan what you might say, or plan some possible objections that might be raised and how you might handle them? Did you plan what your objective was and what you hoped the outcome might be?
Chances are that the meeting you are thinking of was successful (even if you didn’t get exactly what you wanted) in large part due to the planning you did before hand. Whilst planning will not 100% guarantee success or cover every likely issue that might occur, it will definitely help you feel more prepared, confident and clear-minded. You will be more focussed. You will be more likely to listen to others than if you were planning in your head ‘on the spot’. You will be more in control than if you didn’t plan.
So we acknowledge that when we plan, we generally have more successful interactions with others, especially if there is an issue to discuss or a difficult conversation to be had. If we extrapolate this thinking to longer term business planning, we may start to see some benefits that relate to us. For example, if we are really clear on our objectives for the year, we are more able to map out the steps we need to achieve, more efficient in our use of resources (especially time!) and more likely to feel a sense of satisfaction when we hit our goal. We are less likely to be distracted by tasks that don’t fit with our objectives and less likely to procrastinate because we don’t know the reasons for what we are doing. We are likely to appear to others as being focussed, motivated and productive.
So now you might be saying “that’s all very well, but I have no time to plan!” It’s true, planning does take time – be it for a short-term meeting goal or for a longer term year plan. Yet if we plan in the first place, we are likely to save time later. How many times have you started a task or project, got part way in and then realised you weren’t really sure what the point was or how to actually do something related to the task? By the time you have had a few unsuccessful attempts at whatever it is, you realise that you need to go back to the start, to get more clarity from the boss, to map out timelines or to seek training in a particular area first. This all adds time to the project and may have been avoided if you had spent a few moments planning in advance.
Planning actually saves time compared to not planning! Planning may help you predict issues or find a simpler way, even before you start.
So whether it’s planning for the year, planning for a project, or planning for a meeting, it is worth the effort. You just have to commit to doing the plan in the first place – go on, it’s not that hard and will be worth it in the end!
A few things to think about when you plan at work:
- What am I wanting to achieve with this year / project / meeting?
- How does this relate to the company goals for the year?
- What will be the most important outcomes or outputs?
- What are the steps (and timeframes for each if applicable) needed to achieve the desired results?
- What are the resources I may need to achieve results? (people, money, time, tools)
- What are the possible obstacles I may face and how will I handle them?
- How do I want myself and others to feel as a result of achieving the objectives of the year / project / meeting?
Once you get into the habit of asking yourself these questions, you will find planning gets easier and often quicker. And if you are not able to answer some of these questions, you will know that you need to ask for help or do some research.
So in the next month when your executive team are talking about planning, don’t switch off – see what they are doing and what they are planning for the business, reflect on how this will impact your job and start your own planning from there. Then keep planning – projects, meetings, discussions, presentations…
Happy new year and happy planning!
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