Why Planning Should Be Flexible if You Want to Achieve Your Goals

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Steve Lobley

I remember always being curious why business leaders and their businesses didn’t grow and develop as effectively as they could – and in line with their stated ambitions. It was a great puzzle – despite knowing exactly what to do, nine times out of ten they couldn’t make the changes needed or make the right decisions to truly achieve the step changes required. It led me to the mantra from the Chinese Proverb ‘it’s not the knowing that’s difficult, it’s the doing’ – because THAT is really what it’s all about after all…

And as a result I reshaped my career from business adviser and mentor to launch myself fully into the world of coaching. My 30+ years in business from a shift manager in a textile mill to MD of a £15M business in the corporate world allowed me a unique perspective on the challenges people were facing, and with loads of experience on how to address them. 

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.”

– Confucius

Wise words indeed.

Why flexibility is no bad thing

I find that being flexible with business plans is essential, designing in the opportunity to adjust and recalibrate. Too many times businesses put together a detailed plan with a lot of interrelated actions, which, once one or two have gone pear shaped, all others seem to follow. This is very demotivating for the team and can quickly lead to abandonment of the whole plan, and an increasing disenchantment with whole process of planning too.

There’s no need for this.

It’s crucial that a business finds a way to plan, and then a way to implement that plan. If being flexible along the way achieves this then so be it.

It’s the act of planning that’s important to achieve your goals

I’ve found that looking no further out than 3 quarters works well, with a review each month of simple summaries of the activities -‘investigate and develop a plan for the installation of a CRM system’. If these activities fall behind then just move to them to next quarter (obviously try to get them back on track but if you can’t then hey, stuff happens…).

In my experience this has proven to be the most satisfactory way to plan and then to actually get things done over the long term. There’s no need to beat yourself up, the idea is to set some goals, plan to achieve them and then actually do so. Holding rigidly to a plan at all costs often achieves very little in the end. In essence it is the act of planning, which is an ongoing process, that really produces results.

To quote Eisenhower:

”In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”

How are you developing your plans to achieve your goals at the moment – and how much flexibility are you building in to the process? Don’t be scared to plan for flexibility too.

Planning should be flexible. Plan, keep planning, and plan to keep planning…

Spring Leadership offer team and individual coaching programmes and services. If you feel you would benefit from support with planning to help you achieve your goals, contact us for a no obligation chat.