Change Management Training Step 7: Operate at the 4th Level of Change

Good Planning Prepares You To Improvise

Use a double-barreled approach to innovate toward “faster-better-cheaper.”

On one hand, carefully prepare. On the other, be willing to improvise.

In your own pursuit of spectacular results, start out by doing some “deep planning.” Anticipate as best you can. Consider different scenarios, and run your calculations. Make your very best guess about how the situation will unfold. But then be willing to bob and weave.

When your plan has a hole in it or fizzles out on you, don’t freeze up. Remain limber and loose. Feel your way along. Even though you may feel lost, good planning will still be serving you. It guides you invisibly when you have to operate intuitively. So press on. Mobility is crucial. Continue to actively pursue your objectives. Don’t stop just because you’re in uncharted territory.

You should understand, right now, that your planning is doomed in certain respects. Don’t expect it to cover all contingencies, no matter how thorough you’ve been. It’s been said that, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” In this case the “enemy” is the unknown, the unpredictable part of the future. But a key benefit of good planning is that it mentally prepares you to improvise.

In-depth planning at the outset helps you figure out what you don’t know. It points to those unmapped areas where you’ll have to play it by ear. In the final analysis, skillful improvisation may account for your success more than the efforts you put into crafting your approach. So be willing to change, or even abandon, your blueprint for action. The intent should be to adapt to the circumstances you encounter, not to slavishly follow an obsolete plan.

But one final point—don’t get lazy about planning. A lot of people just make a superficial pass at it, counting on their quick wits and flexibility to get them by. Their so-called plan amounts to little more than deciding to wing it all the way. Don’t kid yourself. The better job you do in planning, the more effective you’ll be in improvising.