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By Wayne Rivers, Family Business Institute
Near the end of Dwight Eisenhower’s second presidential term, he reflected on his military career and offered a paradoxical statement: "Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." That's pretty confusing; what could he have meant?
Even the most thoughtfully considered plan can't anticipate everything. Emergencies, by definition, are things which are unexpected. The pandemic has thrown a kink into how all of us do business. Even if you had elaborate and well-thought-out plans, conditions are suddenly different. If plans are useless, but planning is indispensable, how do we reconcile Eisenhower’s statement?
Here is an analogy: I have a friend who was interested in MMA-style fighting before MMA was a phenomenon. He talked about having pre-fight plans, but once you get popped in the mouth a couple of times, the cobwebs get pretty thick and the plan goes out the window. Getting hit, therefore, had to be part of the training. He said that only through training would you know how to react when feeling physical pain and what to do in that event.
It is impossible to explain to somebody what it's like to feel the shock of physical pain from getting punched, so you must live through it via practice so your body and brain will know how to react. In a crisis like the current one, the analogy makes perfect sense.
Can you imagine entering this or any other crisis without a plan? Where would one begin? How would one adjust and adapt? Would every day just be a new “hair on fire” type of experience? Let's examine four benefits of planning which will pay off for every contractor – especially in times of crisis.
After 30 years of working with contractors, one of the great ironies is that they don't do anything without a plan; a contractor would hardly walk onto a job site and turn the first spade full of dirt without a comprehensive plan. And yet the biggest project, the most important project contractors have, is the long-term health and success of their businesses.
Why do they so rarely have overarching, long-term plans for their companies?
In adverse conditions, that’s when you need planning the most. The good news: It's never too late to start!