The line from a poem written by Robert Burns in 1785, “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” was famously put into common vernacular as the title for author John Steinbeck’s 1937 novella ‘Of Mice and Men’.
It is a phrase that has come to mean many different things, from the unfulfilled wishes of those pursing the American Dream in Steinbeck’s novella, to a cautionary phrase used to discuss the uncertainty of even of well-planned projects – the lesson being that things can always go awry.
It is a sentiment that has rung true throughout the ages; the great Winston Churchill is famously quoted as saying, “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential”.
A difference in outcomes
The difference between a solid plan and well-thought-out planning can seem subtle, but it is in essence a distinction between planning for the best and planning for the worst. The U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower is also quoted on the subject, when in his address to the National Defence Executive Reserve Conference in Washington, D.C.
“There is a very great distinction because when you are planning for an emergency you must start with this one thing: the very definition of ’emergency’ is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning,” said Mr. Eisenhower.
The unpredictable world of business
Graham Kenny, the managing director of Strategic Factors, recently wrote about this distinction in a feature on plans versus planning for the Harvard Business Review. In this piece, he explains why the business environment is an unpredictably place, filled with digital disruptions and dramatic turn of events.
His advice is to think of the planning stage as a guidance tool. This is so, when things go wrong, one isn’t inclined to throw the baby out with the bath water, and ultimately become discouraged by being thrown off-track.
Strategic mapping and visualisations
When looking at the meaning of strategy as defined by the Oxford Dictionary – “A plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim” – we can get the sense of what most business leaders would want – a long-term and overall plan. But a coherent economic or marketing strategy relies on short-term goals also.
If you would like to learn more about how your business strategy can be improved by using StrategyBlocks software, don’t hesitate to get in touch today.