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Moving Forward

Planning is helpful; the plan is not!

We all have plans. Growth plans. Business plans. The marketing milestone plan. Plans to visit England someday. But how valuable is that plan? How customer focused? Will it stand the test of time? Will the outcomes be as we expect? Most likely not.

Why might that be? A plan represents what we think, at the moment it was created. Almost immediately from there, things begin to change. If we had a go-to-market plan that we thought was great on the 25th of February this year, by the 25th of March it would likely not be appropriate anymore. Our customers’ situations would have been significantly altered by the novel coronavirus. This may be considered an extreme case,but in fact, all plans are fated the same way: we can never know for sure what will happen next.

Planning on the other hand, is a creative, adaptive, and essential activity. In an agile environment, we do it every time we move things on a kanban board or have a Sprint Planning Session. We’re planning in the small at every stand up -making little adjustments based on what we’ve learned along the way -even in the previous 24 hours.

What if a plan were a person? That plan, my oh my, would just keep on talking, never asking any questions or stopping to listen to any input or feedback. The plan would keep blithely going along, blissfully unaware that what it was trying to do, would not achieve the outcomes desired.

When we’re having real engaged dialog with our customers, on the other hand, we are listening for their thoughts, ideas, problems, and successes. Only in this way can we adjust our path to help them,create opportunities for alternatives, and move toward outcomes that are mutually beneficial. This give and take is planning. We’re learning and adjusting to our customer’s needs and changing circumstances.

The next time someone says they have a plan, focus on the planning and the learning that goes into it. Your customers will thank you.