Drastically prune your plans to get better results faster

In our interactions with clients in various industries we must conclude that the “doctrine” of detailed planning is still very much considered a good practice. For budgets, strategic plans, investment projects, often the Why and What are followed by an excruciatingly detailed break up on the How (all to be done in parallel).

The implicit assumption underpinning these plans is that we can predict the future accurately. In some industries, this is still doable for 3, maybe 6 months. But we dare to state that in the clear majority, the environment of today’s business is so complex and dynamic, so “VUCA”, that the assumption has become foolish and completely outdated. The Darwinian philosophy of survival of the fittest, with fittest meaning being the most adaptable, has never been more relevant in modern business environments. Try-out/experiment, review, adapt and then move forward again becomes the need for companies that want to become or remain agile.

No worries, guys, this does not mean you now must chuck all your existing plans or stop making them! Only the most evolved/agile companies do this after years of purpose driven adapting and evolution.

What we can do to start a more agile approach is to limit the details in our plans. Focus on Why, What and on the Vital Few results to be achieved (say no to many) rather than on the detailed roadmap to get there, leave that to the people that do have the expertise (and funnily often are excluded from who part of the big plan making). And – essential – add a regular “Sitrep” to the process: check where we are, how we are doing and whether we need to change or adapt to achieve the overriding objectives. Every few weeks.

Granted, this requires some faith in the process. And requires courage to say no to many smaller objectives to consistently focus on the vital few. So, just try it out on a modest scale, role with it, experience it, brutally evaluate it and then apply it to ever increasing project sizes. Then you are on the way reinventing your effectiveness and start spending your time on world class execution rather than just making plans that are outdated the minute they return from your approval cycle.


(See also our post “Strategy versus Execution II, March 2017).


Written by Ron de Vries – Regional Business Partner