Having a conversation with a client a few days ago got me thinking about different viewpoints with regards to planning and winging it.
Which is better? IS one better than the other? Does one style suit all? Let’s look at it in more detail.
I’m a natural planner and organiser but I’ve learnt the art of winging it and ‘flying by the seat of my pants’ because of some of the people I have worked with.
I like to show method and plan ahead so that there is a chance to mitigate risk whereas others love to just react to competition and implement campaigns in a day.
Now I’m adept at both to suit the resource and circumstances and no longer have a natural preference, I enjoy both ways equally.
Benefits of planning
So…planning is amazing for bringing you closer to your vision and making you accountable for it. So many businesses get by with a loose vision and no real direction but they then fall down when their short sighted attitude bites them on the behind when something happens out of the blue.
Planning greatly improves communication when done properly, as it allows you to take your teams on a journey with you which in turn can improve job satisfaction.
Planning allows you to mitigate risk by looking at all potential outcomes along your path to success. During this process you will brainstorm, review, schedule and record your results which means you also have a map of where you’ve been and where you are going.
Timescales when planning are wonderful for keeping you accountable, everyone goes off track from time to time so it’s amazing to have a reference point and if you didn’t hit a milestone in the time you expected to, you analyse why not.
Strategy and planning and best friends, your strategies should be informed, well-communicated and timed to allow you to reach your potential.
Planning is also vital for creating competitive advantage. If you aren’t looking ahead and setting yourself targets you can bet your competition is. Planning creates more accuracy and allows many opinions and thought processes to be pulled in to one.
On the flip side, planning can be laborious and take a lot more effort. It can create false opinion and it is important to understand that rigid plans don’t solve everything. Planning gives probable results not assured goals.
Benefits of winging it
For the free and creative types, winging it can feel like an expression, the perfect way to ‘vibe things out’ and ‘go with the flow’ and there is something lovely about that. To start, winging it can be less time consuming and feel like you are being reactive but in a positive way. You can respond to internal needs, customer challenges and competitive behaviour in the blink of an eye. This approach can sometimes suit a dynamic and fast paced business as decisions can be made on the spot without referring back to the vision; this can also create issues as you may have had this issue before and dealt with it in a better way but as there is no record you may end up making more mistakes longer term that can often by costly.
Winging it is great if you are a little bit impatient or you hate the strategic planning meetings that zap your energy and involve being in a boardroom for 8 hours eating sandwiches and being sick of the air con. You can get a lot of quick wins from winging it but eventually you will lose sight of the bigger picture and go off on a tangent, this may not be fruitful for the business.
Winging it can make you seem short sighted and allows for risk, can create poor communication with teams as decisions are made fast and usually by one person, it can also result in unnecessary duplication.
So which one do I need?
The honest answer is to be aware of the mechanics of both. You need a vision and to enable that vision you need a plan.
However this plan doesn’t need to be so rigid that even the font it’s written in can’t be changed and it’s locked in a box for one sole owner to access. It should be a free-moving, flexible record of the map for where the business is now leading to where it needs to be. There are many steps that go into making a good plan but once you’ve done it you use it to refer back to, don’t just tick a box saying “yeah we’ve got a plan and a strategy” when you’ve printed off a 30 page document. USE IT. LIVE IT.
If you can’t be bothered with strategy and planning and just want to get on with the exciting stuff that you are good at – work with me, I’ll do it for you.
1. Avoid serial planning
2. Don’t wait for stage 2 to start stage 3
3. Be flexible
4. Don’t be afraid to run parallel plans but keep sight of the vision