Would you rather plan or do?
I once worked with another digital marketing consultant for the same client. He was in-charge of crafting the strategy and plans for everything—from content to lead generation to social media to ads. After two and a half months, we’re still working on spreadsheets and scheduling activities.
All that time was spent on planning and meetings. Internally, everyone was busy. But from the public point-of-view, nothing was happening.
From a business standpoint, this was not a proper allocation of time and money. Here are the top three reasons why you should not spend more time than necessary in planning, and rather, spend it on execution.
Here’s another way to look at it: which will get you more results? Planning your workout or working out?
Reason #1: Planning Is Costly
The first and biggest reason is that planning is an expense. As my favorite management thinker of all time once said, “results are only on the outside.”
If time is spent on internal activities—meetings, politics, bureaucracy, and other administrative tasks—the business won’t get any return from it. That’s why it’s a waste of resources. When you look at the value chain and how it works, you’ll find that this hold true as well.
Yes, planning is important. But spending more time than necessary is not going to be helpful. Remember that the biggest expense of any business is its people.
If everyone spends their limited time on internal issues rather than those that produce value to the business’ customers, there is a great chance that this business will fail.
Key takeaway: Don’t spend unnecessary amounts of time for internal, non-value adding activities. Results come from outside your organization. If you want results, focus on your customers and what will bring value to them. Your customers don’t care about how much time (and money) you spent on planning and spreadsheets and reports.
In our workout analogy, all the research on finding the best workout routines or exercises are time you could have spent doing instead. You could have just gone to the gym, ask a trainer, then do the workout.
Reason #2: You’re Not Learning Anything New
Every industry is different. Every business is different. That’s why to succeed, it’s important that you learn what works for your own business. And you can’t do that with planning. Success can only be achieved through implementation.
You can do all the market research and competitive benchmarking but all those are still plans. What holds true for your competitor won’t necessarily hold true for you. The only way to know for sure is to get out there and execute on what those campaigns and projects are.
This is the main principle behind the lean startup. Spending too much time developing complicated strategies include making a lot of assumptions about the business and the market. But that’s the problem. Those are only assumptions.
The best approach is to test those assumptions and validate if they are true or not. Then, proceed to the next step. This process allows you to adjust your direction every step of the way without waste.
Key takeaway: Instead of making strategy documents that no one understands and reads, go out there and test your assumptions. A 10% growth in the industry year-on-year for the past 5 years doesn’t mean anything to you if you don’t sell a single cent.
In our workout analogy, no matter how well-crafted your plan is, you still have to execute it to get results. What’s more is that you have to learn the basic movements, the correct muscles to use, etc. You can’t learn how to squat or deadlift by reading and watching videos. You still have to do the actual exercise.
Reason #3: Distinguishing Between Planning and Execution Is Stupid
At the start of this article, I asked a question. If you still haven’t found the answer, here’s something that might help you get there:
Planning is waiting for the conditions to be just right.
Doing is starting before you’re ready.
Planning is worrying about perfection.
Doing is realizing that sometimes good is good enough.
Planning is getting all of your ducks in a row.
Doing is figuring it out as you go.
Planning is procrastination.
Doing is building momentum.
Planning is getting permission.
Doing is asking for forgiveness.
Planning is seeking validation to start.
Doing is seeking feedback on the work.
Planning is aiming.
Doing is firing.
Planning is fear masquerading as productivity.—Laura Click
Doing is courage in action.
Separating planning from execution is inherently wrong. For most businesses, planning and doing are two separate activities. Planning is done by leaders and managers while execution is left to the employees and individual contributors.
If you’re one of the companies that have a structure like this, get rid of it immediately.
When you delineate planning or creating strategy from execution, you are making an assumption that those who do, don’t think and plan at all. And as you already know, this isn’t true at all.
That’s also the reason why a lot of plans fail. The plans aren’t executed properly because they were all made from assumptions and not based on reality. The planners assume that what they think matter more than those who do.
Key takeaway: Planning and execution are two sides of the same coin. You can’t separate them from one another as most businesses do. Those who go against this popular convention are the ones who succeed in the market. Plans are useless if not implemented. Individual actions don’t matter if you don’t learn from them. But together, they help steer your business to the right direction.
Different workouts and exercises have different effects on different people. That’s why it’s important that you take the time to do the workout and if you find it’s only causing you injuries or it doesn’t work for you, find an alternative. You can’t know this while watching endless YouTube clips at home.
Over to You
Lousy implementation trumps perfect planning every single time. You get to achieve results by knowing what works and what doesn’t. You get valuable feedback from real customers. You also get to improve along the way.
Planning is good. But doing is better. Don’t spend too much time planning and separating the execution.
Do you think that planning and implementation should be separate? Or are you tired of differentiating between the two?
Either way, I’d love to know what you think.