Plans are worthless, but planning is everything

Do you think this period of uncertainty is a first? You’re wrong – you’ve always been living with uncertainty. Budgetary and strategic planning exercises merely exist to give the appearance of predictability. But should we resign ourselves to total improvisation?

You could quite legitimately be tempted to abandon any form of planning. What’s the point of a plan? A poorly cooked pangolin is all that’s needed to throw your whole organization off course! While an ability to improvise is more valuable than ever these days, don’t forget US President Dwight D.  Eisenhower’ssaying, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” Far more important than the final plan – or rather, the final plans  is the exercise of planning itself. The point is to work through several ideas 


Strategy expert Olivier Sibony recommends we: 

  • Opt for a scenario-based approach. Develop several hypotheses, even if they are unlikely to happen. Don’t exhaust yourself trying to work out exactly what the next crisis will look like; instead, practice coming up with ideas and action plans that could be used when the unexpected happens. 
  • Encourage collaboration. Expand your circle of resources  seek out people on the fringes of your organization and get them to brainstorm these scenarios with you. This is your best protection against blind spots and other cognitive biases. 


You don’t know anything. But now you know you don’t know anything, and that makes all the difference. 


To go further Le monde d’avant, le monde d’après… Et maintenant ? video of Olivier Sibony (Fédération Nationale des Banques Populaires, July 2020).