Have you ever heard this quote? “Plans are worthless but planning is essential”

That was stated by Dwight D. Eisenhower, interesting that it came from someone who spent months planning the Normandy invasion. There is also a military corollary: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.”

So why is planning so essential if the plan is ditched during execution? Because planning builds the execution muscle. It is the foundation of your organizational fitness. Think of a personal physical fitness plan. It builds a vision of your fitness at a particular time and a path to get there. You use that plan to evaluate your progress. If you regularly go to the gym, you hate January and love February. January fills the gym with individuals starting on their New Year’s resolution of getting in shape. In February most of the new additions are gone. Those that remain spent some time planning their new fitness routine.

Organizational plans provide vision, direction, and exercise every organization requires. Without a plan direction is unclear, success is purely subjective, and confusion reigns. What are some common components at every level?

– First, is the requirement for a clearly defined vision, measure of success, or end state. Everyone needs to know where you are going and what it looks like when you get there.

– Second, a solid plan requires the right people in the room to create the plan. Regardless of the level; strategic, operational, or tactical, if you do not have the correct people creating the plan, your plan is flawed.

– Lastly, the plan must set boundaries, metrics and standards.

Simply put, the planning process is regular exercise for the team. That exercise consists of, exploring capabilities, evaluating strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to the organization. The planners gather data, explore options and alternates throughout the process. There is tension, give, take, and frustration. They get their heart rate up and sweat throughout the process. Good planning is hard work from the very start to communicating the final product.

So, what makes it essential? It is essential because planning is practice. When the first contact challenges the plan, the team knows how to react. They have spent hours examining the capabilities of the organization and its people. They understand the organizations strengths and have probably worked through a version of the current challenge in the planning process. They know how to work together. The team is fit.

Every play called in a football game started from a plan. Once the ball is hiked the plan evolves. The athletes act as planned and react to changes. That’s what athletes do. They prepare, train, and expect the plan to be challenged. They evaluate progress continuously, use feedback from multiple sources, adjust to setbacks, and exploit successes all focused on the defined end state.

Make your organization fit. Do not just have a plan, have an ongoing planning process. It will set the fitness foundation for your organization. It will make versatile organizational athletes out of your team. Your team will be known as a winner.