Insanity Planning: Doing the same thing today and tomorrow that you did yesterday and expecting different results.
That definition doesn’t only cover your own strategies; it includes copying strategy from elsewhere and expecting it to somehow fit the new reality into which you are trying to force it. In other words, “doing the same thing someone else did and expecting it to deliver a different vision or solve different issues.”
It really doesn’t matter what sector you work in, your operating environment is constantly changing. Sometimes by revolution most often by evolution but, nonetheless, constantly changing.
And yet, the majority of organisations in all sectors continue to plan as if that environment is stable, as if change is not only unlikely but impossible.
All strategies should be developed as individual, personal plans for achieving the clearly defined vision or addressing a clearly defined issue.
Most, if not all, involved in the development of strategy will realise that but that will not prevent insanity creeping into the way they plan, not always consciously.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of this ‘creeping insanity’ – you will be surprised how many you recognise.
“X Company are big and successful, we should copy their structure.”
In the same way that form follows function, so structure should follow strategy. Structure is a tool for delivering strategy. If you try to fit another structure to your strategy you are following the path to insanity.
“This great consultant has provided us with a template for our strategy. He claims it has been successful in hundreds of other companies.”
Anyone who tells you that your strategy can be built around a single, universal template is selling you a convenient short cut to insanity, not a solution. Remember your strategy should be individual and personal to your wants and needs, which vary slightly or widely between all organisations.
“Our last strategy worked very well; let’s repeat it with suitably updated objectives and measures.”
Companies who live in the past will soon be consigned to the past. Consider where the internet or the mobile phone would be today if all planning was based on repeating previous strategies. Good strategy addresses current issues or future vision; only insanity planning addresses the past as if it were the future.
“We can’t afford to develop our strategy properly today so we’re putting it off until we can.”
We hear this one a lot! How does it fit the definition of insanity planning given above? If planning is put off, it will usually continue to be put off, there will always be some reason (read ‘excuse’) why planning can’t be done.
In fact, by not planning, some planning is being done; unfortunately the result of this plan is either a small company staying small (or dying) or a large company shrinking (or dying). Strangely, these same companies are usually spending more than it would cost to develop a good strategy (i.e. plan the company’s future properly) on peripherals which look great but deliver little or nothing.
Now that is insanity!
© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited, 2011