Why do organisations make plans in spite of their embarrassing tendency to fail?

Firstly, planning is necessary because stakeholders and shareholders, analysts and investors, media commentators and voters all expect to see a Plan. Secondly, senior administrators believe that planning is necessary to properly manage their organisations.

Nevertheless, it is a truism that workers will tell you that they have no idea what the Plan is “this week”. Plans are viewed with suspicion and derision by the folk who have to implement them. (Type “plan + joke” into your browser.)

Plans do not inspire. But planning does. We show you how, and why.

Plans are uninspiring because in most cases the present Plan looks so much like the preceding Plan. Business As Usual + Some Productivity Improvements – Some Costs = The Plan.

That’s OK if last year’s plan was wildly successful and ‘steady as she goes’ is the optimal strategy – and not a reflection of unimaginative thinking.

In other cases (typically as a result of “new broom” behaviour ) we get broadsided by a Plan that is so revolutionary that no-one gets it, no-one signs up to it and a counter-revolution breaks out against it.

Conquering the planning middle ground – not too risky, not too safe – is like navigating Tolkien’s Middle Earth. You want imagination, knowledge of the terrain and a very good mapping process.

Susan Alexander teaches planning.