Every professional project manager knows that the secret to a successful project lies, for a very large part, in good planning. And I for one would say nothing to suggest otherwise. However, there’s a very poignant Jewish joke that sometimes returns to haunt me. Question: “How do you make God laugh?” Answer: “You tell him your plans”.

This is not the kind of joke that has you rolling over with laughter but a kind of double action joke that affects you on multiple levels. On the one hand the idea of God being able to see your future and that he cruelly takes pleasure in being able to laugh out loud as to how wrong you are. And on the other hand, on a more cynical level, where you yourself can look back and laugh (or cry) at the vision you once had and how it has turned out so differently.

I guess there maybe some people (purely based upon the law of averages) that for them, everything goes to plan? But for the most of us, this is clearly not the case. This does not however mean that things necessarily turn out for the worse – quite the contrary. Even in our biggest tragedies comes new hope, new ideas, and even new life.

The point I am making is this: Both in our business and in our personal life, there is no point in making very detailed, long term plans for the future. If you have ambition and you know what you want you should set out a strategy, not a plan, to best try and reach it. I suggest the following:
1. Understand very clearly where you are right now
2. Work hard on developing a clear and plausible vision as to where you want to be
3. Formulate a very clear strategy
4. Ensure you maintain discipline and follow rigorously your short term planning
5. Make provisions for the future

Every adventurer knows that they need a plan, but every adventurer quickly realizes that plans need to be constantly adjusted and revised in order to keep the long term vision in sight. But more important than plans are provisions. We need just enough provisions to keep us going through the rough times but not too much that they weigh us down or make us lazy. And this is the delicate balance that most businesses are facing right now.

So when planning for the future, think in terms of strategy and not detailed plans. And when you have plans, be prepared to change them for the sake of the long term vision. However, the one thing you should never compromise on is ensuring that you have sufficient provisions for yourself and those that depend upon you. Only a fool risks their own life, let alone, the lives of others by setting off with insufficient provisions to reach their next base.

Have a good week,

H.