Is ‘Plan’ a Four Letter Word in Your Business?

Easy Tips for Planning.

You are asked to chop down a tree.  You have six hours to complete the task.  What do you do first?

If you said, ‘I’d pick up the axe and start chopping.’ You aren’t alone.  Many people look at the task at hand and jump right in.  And, they’ll get the job done.  Chances are – they will also expend more energy and take longer than actually needed.

If you said, sharpen the axe.  You’re in good company.  Abraham Lincoln said:  “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

In light of President’s Day, it’s a great time to embrace the wisdom of Honest Abe’s quote.

Planning – The Unsung Hero of Business

It’s been proven time and time again that a solid plan saves time, precious resources and money.  Yet, planning is all too often viewed as a waste of time.  (If I had a nickel for every time I heard an executive bemoan time spent in a strategy session, I’d be retired on a beach with an umbrella clad drink.)

What’s the cause of this paradoxical view?  We are behaviorally conditioned to act – acting is rewarded, lauded and praised.  We tend to glaze over the ‘side effects’ of lost productivity, lower margins and excess effort as sunk costs or uncontrollable.  We rarely confront the fact that the losses are likely due to lack of planning.

Think about it – the person, who jumped right into chopping the tree, would probably be cheered on by his/her managers.  Meanwhile, Abe would have been likely criticized for his perceived slow approach.

As a leader, ask yourself what behaviors and practices do you encourage and reward in your business?

Be the Change

Changing the behaviors in your organization starts with….YOU.  Embody the change you want and lead by example.

The good news is it’s never too late to plan.  Here are some quick planning tips:

  • Spend time at the outset of any project to create an actionable plan.  If your plan is vague, it’s not a plan – it’s an idea.  The plan should be concrete and act as a roadmap to guide your team to the goal.
  • Actively seek out input and feedback from your team.  What is working?  What could the team be doing differently? Update the plan accordingly.
  • Revisit the plan frequently and make changes as the project evolves.
  • Share what you learned (good and bad) so others can benefit.
  • Celebrate wins!  Celebrate small milestones as much as big ones – it keeps your keep energized and engaged.  Best of all, you’re creating a culture that rewards calculated success – not just activity.

Get out your iPad, notebook or sticky notes and get started planning.  Now is the time.


What’s your best planning tip?

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