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Noun = bad, verb = good

Consider the difference between a plan and planning. A plan is a thing—most often a document in some form. It’s a fixed set of ideas about what you are going to do next.

Just at the moment a plan is completed, it begins to age into irrelevance or incorrectness, possibly very quickly. Conditions and context are always changing. And because of the decisions and narrowing necessary to concoct a plan, the thing may never have been particular right in the first place.

Now consider planning. Planning is an ongoing process. It’s a process you work on, improve, and continue. Instead of a limited stepwise effort resulting in a literal or figurative 3-ring binder, you have an organizational process that has a life, sees growth and development, and can change as needed.

Among my clients are many who engage in a periodic strategic planning process. That’s the old-school thing you do—it’s text book management. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

Organizations put their heart and soul into periodic strategic planning. They spend time and money. Usually, a special team or department takes the lead. Too often, the work is a task for experts, and doesn’t connect to the wider organization. The effort suffers because it is set up as a special activity.

So don’t put your energy into completing that three-ring binder, celebrating or breathing a sigh when you have punched and inserted the last pages. Put your energy into getting good at the verb*–planning, not the noun–plan. Focus on learning to be agile, strategic, and to plan, plan some more, and plan yet more. The payoff is in your ability to move and shift with changing conditions.

Don’t make planning only an episode or periodic activity. Make it continuous, and build it to be ready to move and shift as conditions do. Your plans will be relevant, workable, and easier to adjust when they are not.

Note: I’ve shared a closely similar view here: The Power of Words — but this is a topic worth revisiting!

*Please also note: I am aware that “planning” is a gerund, noun form of the verb to plan, but for a succinct title, I settled on noun vs. verb

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