Plans Are Nothing

But as Dwight D Eisenhower went on to say, ‘planning is everything’.

That is one of my favourite quotes and one that I used frequently when I was coaching the leaders of the Parachute Regiments and Royal Marine Commandos in their operational planning.  I think Eisenhower – supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe during WWII and later president of the USA – really did have a point.


Well, as another great US fighter said years later, ‘everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth’ – thank you Mike Tyson.  Military organisation more normally say that ‘no plan survives contact with the enemy’.  

And that is the point.

No matter how much rigour you put into your planning, the product – your plan – is very unlikely to be implemented in the way you had foreseen, because circumstances change.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan.  Quite the opposite, as Eisenhower emphasised.  Thorough planning, including in-depth consideration of all the factors, detailed risk analysis, comprehensive testing of the plan, and full rehearsal is the way to ensure that you can react to changing circumstances.  Proper planning gives you the flexibility and agility to adapt and still be successful, because you have thought about the likely issues, have alternative strategies up your sleeve and have developed contingencies.  You may get punched in the mouth, but you have built your resilience to not be rocked back, and to continue to make headway, due to your planning.

More than that, by including your team in the planning, you will have developed better teamwork and cohesion.  Trust and loyalty will have been enhanced, and the team will have the buy-in and commitment to the plan necessary to guide its implementation through the inevitable choppy waters.

Don’t plan for failure by adopting the ‘no-plan plan’.  Plan in detail, knowing that your beautiful plan is unlikely to succeed as written, but that the planning itself will ensure you achieve your objective.

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