Benefits of Planning | submitted by Rick Marolt

Executives have given me many reasons why they do not do “strategic planning”: It takes too long. They cannot predict the future. The world changes too quickly. Strategy happens as a matter of course. If similar businesses don’t know what to do in this economy, then we can’t figure it out either. Some businesses that don’t do “strategic planning” are successful, so it can’t be necessary. We don’t want to lock ourselves into a plan and miss good opportunities. We don’t have time for process because we’re focused on results.

But those reasons can be countered easily. Yes, making bad decisions takes less time than making good ones. Planning is not predicting the future; it’s creating the organization’s future. Change is a reason to plan, not to avoid planning. Formulating good strategies consistently requires forethought. Planning is about more than strategy. If similar businesses don’t know what to do, then figuring it out first will make yours more successful. Businesses may be successful temporarily without planning due to circumstances or luck, but they would certainly be more successful over time if they did plan. Good plans should identify good opportunities while helping organizations avoid the wrong ones. And getting good results requires good processes.

Here are a few reasons why planning is important:

  • Planning means deciding what to do before you do it. What is the alternative?
  • Planning means arranging for the people, skills, equipment, partners, and money that you need to execute your plan. How else are you going to know what you need and get it in place when you need it?
  • Planning means identifying how you will measure your success. Without measures, how do you know if performance is better than mediocre?
  • Planning is an opportunity to improve any aspect of your organization, especially the management team.
  • Planning is an opportunity to create a culture of trust and performance.

Planning is a process that produces specific, measurable goals and executable plans that state who has to do what by when to achieve those goals. When an organization has a culture of trust and performance, such plans lead to magical things because they align, focus, and motivate people.

So you can find reasons not to plan. But finding the magic is much more rewarding and fun.

Rick Marolt is an instructor at UW-Madison and Edgewood College.

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