Dwight Eisenhower said “Plans are nothing, Planning is everything”. It’s as true today – if not more so – than it was then. Read on for our top tips on making effective plans.
Life is but a spreadsheet
“Life is but a spreadsheet”. Sad but true. Time on one axis, dollars on the other. The bottom right hand corner normally has a number, which is either good, bad, or an extreme version of one of those! If any of the cells is empty or incorrect, the number in the corner will also be wrong. The spreadsheet calculation is never wrong!
Planning is about just that; correct information leading to better decisions. That is why it is so important. Build the spreadsheet, fill in the cells and then massage it until you are happy that it is as accurate as possible…..you know you have to, so just get on and do it! Whether it’s a marketing budget, a media plan, or a home budget….they’re all the same.
Why is this good? Because it forces you to put ‘hard numbers’ on things. Not some airy fairy wishful thinking. It makes you make the hard calls early, meaning there might not be hard calls later, when the options are reduced. Narrowing the options in life is never a good thing. It gives greater visibility of what you can and can’t do. That is a good thing. Go on. Do the maths! In the end it is all that matters!
An annual plan should actually be an 18-month plan
We’ve seen some very good annual plans. Good start. But generally at the end of that annual plan (in NZ) is a period known as ‘Christmas break’. The year stops, the world does not. January is lost and work does not start again until February - two months into the next 12 months. It happens every year. So the next year plan is already late and your options are already reduced before you even start…… “I don’t do that”, we hear you say. You may not, but from experience, we know many who do. Media bookings can be six months out to get the best deals….so do a 12 month plan and rolling 12 month plan to maximise the options and the value.
Planning – it’s all about maximising options and opportunities
In an age when the world changes so fast, planning is all about having Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, etc. Rather than reacting, have the plans in place so they can be implemented quickly should the pieces in the puzzle move. Planning maximises options and opportunities, which in today’s fast-paced world is a very important thing to focus on.
Long term planning in a world that changes every day
In the 70s and 80s, developing the annual plan and having it signed off probably set the work programme for the next 12 months. There was most probably a three year or five year plan as well. Today it’s a much harder ask. You probably need 10 plans to cover every possible contingency; a Trump trade tariff plan, an extreme weather event, a competitor changing the way the entire category operates, etc, etc.
Does that mean you shouldn’t plan long term? No way! It means you should plan more! Plan for every contingency you can imagine and some you can’t. Try to find the ‘bad guys’ plans’(….they might just be on the public facing server like the Government’s budget documents). Then make new plans.
The internet changed the world…a lot!
Making plans prior to the internet was a relatively simple and secure process. The movement of information was at snail’s pace as was the movement of business. The advent of the internet has meant there is nowhere to hide with the security of plans and any IP almost impossible.
First mover advantage lasts for the blink of an eye before the copy arrives on the market. It’s amazing to think Apple was able to keep its developments under wraps, for so long – albeit less so in recent time. Many may recall a leak on an Apple gossip site some years ago about a huge order for 10 inch screens being placed by Apple. They had also registered a trademark for ‘ipad’. Sure enough, Samsung’s tablet was not far behind! They changed to Plan B.
Why plan so far ahead when the world changes so fast?
Because, as Dwight Eisenhower said, “plans are nothing, planning is everything”. Unless you plan a long way out, you won’t be able to move the pieces of the puzzle into the right places in time. Sometimes things don’t change that much, you have the right pieces in the right place and the results are fantastic. Or you see some things changing, change the long term plan to Plan B and again the results are great.
Our message is this – never stop short or long term planning. To the naysayers who say it is a waste of time playing the long game because things change too fast, we say at your peril……even if the plans have to change!