A Powerful Word

[Post by Chuck Krugh, September 29, 2023]

As I ease back into business topics, I thought I would spend a few minutes on a word that I use a lot in the blogs – Plan (or Planning). Why do I use it so much? Why is it important? Let’s spend a few minutes together on planning.

I haven’t gone back to count how many times I have used the words plan or planning to put a number on it, but it is a word and process that I use routinely. I am organized in the way I approach the problems and opportunities I face. I tend to approach them in a logical way, trying to be sure I understand what I’m facing. After all, the better we understand the situation we are facing, the faster we can define a path through it. In other words, it’s easier to find a solution.

Some questions that you might ask about my focus on having a plan are: Why does it seem like I need a plan for everything? What is so important about making a plan? How many times do the plans actually work out as planned? All good questions.

The power of the plan is not in the actual plan itself. Instead, the value comes from the time we spend formulating a plan and the thought we put into it. Stay with me here…building a plan requires us to think! As we think about the plan, we must consider more than the best-case scenario (which would be the flawless execution of the plan with no surprises popping up) and the plan unfolding perfectly. As we know, that very rarely happens.

To have a good plan, we must think about the potential inputs, outcomes, results based on different inputs and outcomes, and finally what countermeasures we would deploy to get back to plan (contingency planning). In other words, we need to think about what has to happen for the plan to unfold in the right way plus what we need to do if things don’t go as planned. That’s a lot to think about considering the complexity of some of our work.

The thought process we go through in doing this is the underlying power of planning.

If you are thinking about planning in the optimal way, you are actually visualizing the step-by-step process that you must execute to complete a task. As part of this process, you have to anticipate different potential outcomes and then visualize the steps required to bring the task back to plan if it deviates.

Take anything that you have planned in your personal life. I am sure you did what I have just described but maybe didn’t realize it. Think about complicated tasks like planning a wedding as well as less complicated tasks like going to the grocery store to get food for the week or the hardware store for a home improvement item. You go through the same steps. The more important the task, the less likely you are to leave anything to chance or assume that it will all go smoothly.

OK, so why is the power of the plan derived from the thought process we put into it? Because we spent time thinking about the plan, we are prepared to handle the deviations that will come. We have checked into contingencies, asked questions, gotten answers and walked the areas where the plan will be executed. We have better information and understanding than when we started to plan. We are ready to make adjustments on the fly when things go sideways.

One thing that I have learned in my career is that Mr. Murphy (in keeping with his law) likes to sneak into and participate in the best laid plans and throw them off course. Our abilities to adapt to in-process changes is related to the amount of time we have spent thinking about our plans!

See you on the deckplates!

Safely Execute High-Quality Work

President, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works

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