The pitfalls of planning (part 1)

In organizations, a lot of time and effort is spent on making plans.
We think a lot. Before we start doing.

We make huge, extended, well-thought-out plans.
Based on the assumption: first we think, then we act.

Do you know that this is blocking your way into moving forward?
And it isn’t even true…

“First think, and then act”
This assumption is one of the reasons
why things are going slow, delay or don’t not happen at all.
And why new possibilities are not carried out.
Let’s take a look at this assumption.
Which is actually a misconception.


We act like there is a distinction between thinking and doing:
we assume that we first think (rational and purposeful) and then act.
Our methods are developed in time;
from ‘milestone based’ waterfall methods to more iterative methods.
But, in most methods there is still kind of a separation:
the assumption that if we have a plan (think), we then will act (do).
The thing is: we do not.

We do not act according to thoroughly thought out steps.
We think and act simultaneously.
In fact, we often act first and think later.
We are already involved in the world and act before we think, reason and decide.

Another misconception is that we act according to well-described plans.
In general people don’t read or follow plans at all.
People do not start their day with reading a plan and then act according to it.
They are just busy “getting the job done.”

What actually happens, is that afterwards – if necessary –
we try to come up with a rational explanation for our actions.
So, it is a misconception that we act according to plans.
Even if there are specific tasks described in a plan,
the way in which plans are created (written, large size, boring language)
does not drive people. Really.

Another assumption.
We tend to think that if we only had more information we’d make better decisions.
It doesn’t always work that way.
More information (more thinking) does not lead to better decisions.
In fact, at a certain point, too much information actually causes to make worse decisions (read this)

The danger of making plans

So, we have the tendency to ‘over think’ and the focus on big, extended, well-thought-out plans.
“First think, and then act.”
But working with big, well-thought-out plans does not mix well with speed.
And it doesn’t drive action.

This can be devastating in our fast changing world, were we have to act fast to survive.
If you wait too long to make things happen, you will lag behind, for sure.

That is why it is time to act different.

How to unscrew this system

We act different by using a roadmap. And a set time.
And we start immediately with doing.
Thinking happens while we are doing. Simultaneously.
No waste of time.

What you can do to unscrew the system?

First. Release the assumption that we act on the basis of previously thought plans and steps. Sure, you can keep on putting all your thinking into extended written plans. Just know that this does not lead automatically to action, nor does it stimulate action. (BTW. we know that it is difficult to escape the company routines, especially when you need to have a plan to get approval to start. More about that in our next blog).

Second. Focus on action. Eventually, it is all about doing things differently and not about thinking our talking about things (what Thomas Edison said: “Vision without execution is hallucination.”) Therefore, whatever you do, let it fundamentally be aimed at action. A more action-oriented way; thinking that is aimed to act. It’s about being operational: the ability to get things done. We know, this is hardly taught at school, while it is almost as important as reading, writing and all other stuff we learn (that is why we put a lot of effort in unscrewing the education system as well ;-)

Third. Speed it up. Imagine what would happen you start doing it all with incredible speed. As mentioned before, working with huge, well-thought-out plans does not mix well with speed. Reducing the size of complex issues and break it down in small steps might help. This kind of “small thinking” doesn’t mean loosing the bigger picture, the context or the big dream. It’ not about narrowing your mind. It’s just that we’ll always get from A to B through a series of small but well-considered steps. So, make it small in stead of putting all aspirations into a top-heavy (integral) plan. The key: “Think big, but start small (er)”.

So…we believe in acting different.
We believe is important to start; think big about the future and execute what you can do today.
Release your assumptions, focus on action and do it all with incredible speed.

This will help you move forward. Get things done. Make it all happen. 

Want to know more?

This was Part One of the ‘why planning sucks’ series.
Part Two is about a different way of planning: how you can stop wasting time and money.
You can read this blog here.

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Or, meanwhile, check out our magazine
about planning ‘the other way’.
Read what other people say about this.
View my Flipboard Magazine.

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