Crafting an annual plan is like getting a bill through Congress. Behind the final numbers and strategies lie countless hours of spreadsheet crunching, hallway meetings, and waterfall charts. We debate assumptions, broker compromises, and eventually settle on a plan that is wrong the moment it’s inked.
A finance director once told me that “spending more time on planning won’t make the numbers more accurate; it just makes the numbers wrong to the penny.”
It’s important to know the business inside and out and have a clear trajectory where we’re headed. But there is a point where planning becomes overplanning. All that time spent planning is time spent not doing.
We need to accept that there will be risk and uncertainty in any worthwhile plan. We don’t make that risk go away by crunching the spreadsheet yet another time. Instead, once we plan what we know, we should set the plan aside. Apply that time, energy, and focus on coming up with bigger ideas and making things happen. Place a few audacious unpredictable bets. Minimize the risk by maximizing the upside.
Earlier this year, I met Ian Sanders briefly at South By Southwest. Ian gave an inspiring talk on the merits of Unplanning. Here’s his Unplan manifesto, which includes a brilliant quote from Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts:
“A company’s success can be measured on an inverse ratio to the amount of time it spends on traditional strategic planning.”
Unplan Your Business