“If you fail to plan then plan to fail” —Ben Franklin
Successful people are planners. Some are more obsessed with planning processes than others, but they are all masterful at planning. The commitment to planning is important not just for the long term, but for short- and medium-range time frames. And planning needs to be automatic in your decision-making processes.
Imagine a pilot flying from New York to Los Angeles without a flight plan. Not only would the plane not arrive on time, but it may end up in San Francisco. And along the way, it may encounter a storm system, resulting in a bumpy ride for the passengers. For commercial and recreational pilots, flight plans are a given, an automatic part of their thinking. Even without the requirements imposed by airports and the FAA, pilots wouldn’t dream of taking off without a detailed plan.
As a practical matter, think about how much time you spend on short-, medium-, and long-term planning. Under normal conditions, a leader should spend equal time on each, but as conditions change, the percentages can fluctuate. When the economy gets tough or you get too busy, you may spend most planning time on the short term. But be careful not to neglect medium- and long-term planning.
The flip side is also true: Too much attention to long-term planning inevitably leads to short-term problems. As the grandfather of an old friend of mine used to tell him: “just fill the wagon and don’t worry about the mule going blind.”
Finding the right balance between short-, medium-, and long-term planning can be tricky, but it’s an essential planning skill, and mastering it will enhance your chances for success.