I’m sorry, but I get irritated. It’s a stupid idea. I’m talking about the people who say “don’t bother to plan because things change too quickly.” You can’t plan because you need to be flexible. You shouldn’t plan because you won’t be able to follow it.

That’s just dumb.

My wife and daughters took a Caribbean cruise in the summer of 2004 when there were more hurricanes than ever before. When their ship left Miami, a hurricane was brewing. By the time they got to the Bahamas, the hurricane had grown stronger. Although they had a plan and a series of destinations, the hurricane was headed toward their next destination. So the captain of that ship changed the destination. He went to the Mexican Caribbean, CanCun and thereabouts, instead of the Eastern Caribbean.

Is there any way that the ship wasn’t better off for having a detailed plan as it set out, even if it had to change it? Even the simple fact of knowing whom to notify about the changes–stops that wouldn’t be made–required a plan.

In business, having a plan means that when assumptions change rapidly, you can more easily calculate the impact. This is what we thought would happen, this is what actually happened, so now we can look at the baseline of our plan and calculate the impact of proposed changes. To do the new thing instead of the planned thing, we’ll have to do this and that, but changing the plan will free up this resource–see, the plan had coordinated and calculated resources–which we can now assign to this new task. The old task has become inadvisable.

If you didn’t have a plan, you wouldn’t be in a position to note changes and mark the impact from the original destination.

And having a plan, if it’s a plan-as-you-go plan, you also have a clear view of the assumptions, which means you can quickly see how and when they’ve changed. You can track your progress toward goals and mark the barriers, unforeseen in the beginning, that have appeared.

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.