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Do You Spend Too Much Time Planning?

Planning is a vital part of a leaders role. However, planning also comes with its negatives, and leaders must know what they are to build strong teams.


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Tavian jean-pierre

a year ago | 4 min read

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Before I start, it is vital to note I am not discouraging planning. In fact, quite the opposite. We need leaders who plan both efficiently and effectively to deliver great goals.

However, I have come across many leaders who get attached to the plans they seek to implement. Thanks to spending weeks setting up a Gantt chart or project portfolio, it feels wrong to do something else.

Plans are great things. They keep us on track and make deliverables clear to the team. But plans do come with their negatives too. As someone who enjoys planning, I often find myself in a state of worry.

As leaders, it can be easy to get caught up with the future when everything is planned in so much detail. You are constantly worrying about the next deliverable or goal, and that can lead to neglect of your team in the present.

When in the process of creating a plan, we tend to feel good about ourselves. We feel in control of our circumstances and believe we are being effective. However, planning only gives a false perception of these two things.

If anything, planning stops us from getting into the task that needs to be completed. We spend precious time forming a good looking document to present to our team, only for a lot of it to change as time goes on.

The best leaders understand that planning is essential, but not set in stone. Of course, we need a plan to start what we are doing, but do we really need to be guided every step of the way?

So, in this short article, I will show why planning can often take leaders so long to do. Then, I will highlight why the best leaders take less time planning and what they do instead.

Why Planning Takes So Long?

Well, you know what they say,

“The devil is in the details.”

And this is the very thing that causes us to plan everything. But, it is also the reason why we should avoid planning everything too. When we get bogged down in the details, we soon realise how much we miss.

Many leaders are aware of all the things that could potentially go wrong when planning a project. Therefore, it is tempting to try to mitigate all of these risks in your plan. Unfortunately, this often leads to a rigid plan that holds everyone’s hands through the project.

Funny enough, these detailed plans often seem difficult to follow too. You seem to always be double guessing yourself and wondering if you left something out. Instead of taking initiative, you run to your plan for comfort and base actions on that.

I have always found that plans that took longer to develop often limit the people trying to carry it out. Even I have fallen into this trap when starting new projects.

Start Taking Less Time Planning and Encourage Intuition

According to Helmuth von Moltke,

“No plan survives contact with the enemy.”

Now, of course, as leaders in a corporate setting, we are not planning to take part in the war. However, there is much truth to this statement that can be applied to our plans. We all know that plans are not set in stone, and they are more than likely going to change.

That is not because of incompetence from the leader, but it is because things happen. Someone may deliver late on a deliverable, or there may be missing resources and so forth. As already highlighted, the devil is in the details, and we can never dig so deep to get rid of the devil. He will always be there and will pop up whenever he wants.

So, with this knowledge, we should take a different approach to our methods of planning. After all, top quality leadership is not just implementing a plan but knowing when you need to be flexible enough to change it.

Having a plan is vital, but if you find yourself taking ages to put one together, you are probably digging too far. However, there is another reason why you should reduce the time you take planning. And it is because you know as well as I do that planning tends to be a one-person job.

When we sit in our bubbles and piece together a solution for our problems, we leave out the rest of the team. By doing this, we indirectly tell the team that we do not need their input or knowledge. We go back to that old image of the boss slapping a bunch of files on the worker’s desk telling them what they need to do.

Finally, we become too dependent on the plans we create, and so do our team. Instead of using our brains, we go running to the plan for comfort as if it has all the answers. Some leaders are so rigid, they will even stick with the plan when its answers are wrong!

Therefore, the best leaders spend less time planning and more time encouraging intuition. They allow the page to be as white as possible so that their team can fill it with their thoughts and ideas.

When leaders do this, they do not need to worry about the devil in the details. Instead, they can be confident that they have a team that is motivated to deal with problems and act on their own accord.

Building an Army That Always Wins

In closing, I would like to take you back to the battlefield. As leaders, we are not preparing for a physical battle, but we face many battles. It is up to us and our team to conquer and not be conquered.

Yes, a plan and strategy are needed, but we also need a team ready to stray from it when needed. To build an army that wins, we do not want soldiers that only know how to follow a plan. We also do not want an army that only listens to authority.

We want a team of individuals working together to carry out a great purpose. Therefore, the challenge is to build plans that are clear, implementable and adaptable.

There is a sweet spot between those three things, and they can be hard to find. To find it, we need more than a plan. We need a competent team who can think on their feet when the plan fails and the leaders do not have the answers.

Great leaders build teams that can lead themselves, not teams that need their leadership. So, take less time planning and take more time building a team that can operate without one.

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Tavian jean-pierre

Author of the Paradox of Leadership | Founder of Better Publication | Writer

I am a Visionary and Writer who seeks to enrich society by challenging how we do business today to lead to a world of better leaders and opportunities tomorrow.


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