The 7 Laws of Planning During Turbulence
A five-year plan is a fairy tale in turbulent environments.
The best you can do in uncertainty and turbulence is set direction and improvise.
Planning is making decisions ahead of time. Last year’s planned move is dangerous when environments are volatile, unstable, complex, and ambiguous.
The 7 laws of planning in turbulent environments:
- Set medium-term direction and make short-term plans during turbulence.
- The higher the turbulence, the shorter the window for planning becomes.
- Planning becomes progressively less useful and more dangerous as turbulence increases.
- Agility and adaptability matter more than staying the course in turbulent environments.
- Stable character increases in value as environments become less stable.
- Improvisation IS strategy in turbulent environments. Everything else is contingency.
- Make short-term plans but know if turbulence persists, plans will change.
Succeeding in turbulence
#1. Build relationships that galvanize during turbulent times.
You’ll go further with others in your boat than you will by rowing alone.
- Build relationships before the boat starts filling up with water.
- Nurture long-term relationships. Every leader needs a pool of reliable go-to people.
- Show up to help others because it’s who you are, not because you need something.
- Ask for help when you need it.
Success in any environment requires connecting with others.
#2. Maintain realistic optimism.
Face reality with your eyes wide open and the belief that you can find a way forward.
Realistic optimism fuels urgency and energy. Pessimism invites posturing and reluctance.
How might leaders navigate turbulence?
Very real. We make 5-year plans with no certainty of what our needs will be in 5,4,3,or 2 years from now. It’s great to have a plan, but not so great to rigidly adhere to it when needs change over the course of the planned-out years. Technology evolves, external mandates are enacted, and other changes and challenges crop up. if you wait 5 years to tackle these, you often end up 1-4 years behind the curve.
You nailed it, Leon. Plans are good. But, to be honest, the greatest use of plans is they force leaders to set direction.
Implementation happens in the moment.
Another thought provoking post Dan! Although the 5 year plan will never be fully realized, the process is far more important than the product. An early mentor of mine would say “Leaders who fail to plan, plan to fail.”
Thanks Duane. I like your mentors wisdom. We need to plan. I think long-term planning is a thing of the past. Maybe planning a year or 18 months makes sense in the world we live in.
Dan a very practical, very realistic, very grounded piece. Thank you for sharing.
This is a very timely post for me, Dan! Thank you. I believe blind optimism creates distrust throughout the team. Leaders face the truth of the current situation while maintaining the confidence that if they take the right next steps (1 step at a time) they will stay the course.
Another great post sir! Thank you for investing in all of us!
Thanks Josh. You’re insight about blind optimism is important. Blind optimism doesn’t instill confidence in people. It makes them think that we’re out of touch with reality.
The idea that blind optimism creates distrust speaks to me.
I had a crusty Army sergeant that always said “plans are only good till first contact”. That is so true. Once poops hits the fan we try to stay with the plan but when it’s over what we did often does not resemble the plan we went in with. Well other than the end result, it may. Adapt and overcome
I’m reminded of the Mike Tyson adage – everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.
Nice post Dan.
Would it be fair to say that the strategy sets the broad sets the direction and guides decision making. Plans can then be made to execute tactics aligned to the strategy to achieve the corporate goals. The strategy is evolved over time and lower level tactical plans updated to reflect the adjustments in strategy