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5 Common Planning Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

5 Common Planning Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them
Dmitry Davydov
June 1, 2015
Last updated: April 7, 2021

Plans are useful maps to follow in pursuit of a goal. Even though we generally agree on the idea that having a plan of action is good for any business, there are a few “buts”. One of them is the fact that planning itself as a process has to be done right - if not, it may lead to a negative outcome.

Since plans are never perfect, we decided to take a look at the reasons why that may happen. So far, we have been able to identify five common mistakes that could turn even the greatest plan into a disaster. To help you avoid problems with strategic planning, we created this article - check it out so you will know what not to do next time you're creating a plan.

Planning Too Soon

Plans are tied to opportunity and action; the timing matters. If you plan too soon, you'll end up forecasting trends without up-to-date information. When you do get the data you need, you'll have to remake your plan. Who wants to do the same planning twice?

Avoid this pitfall by first making a list of the information or resources you need in order to do your planning accurately. Don't start planning until you have what you need. Basically, this means that any plan of yours should start with you thinking about the statistical basis and hard data required for the plan to happen in the first place.

Planning Too Late

Not every action requires a plan though. Granted, situations when people regret having a plan are far less common than situations when people regret NOT having one. Still, sometimes you have to act not think.

There are certain possibilities that require quick action; if you wait too long to make a plan, you can miss out. Planning too late or strategizing for too long might cost you the opportunity, and your plan will simply become a memoir of what-might-have-been.

To avoid this pitfall, set a basic protocol to follow for immediate-action possibilities. For example, establish an acceptable threshold for risk, set your priorities by order, and create a basic template to use when opportunity knocks. If a possibility meets your basic criteria, you can go ahead and grab it, filling in the blanks of your planning template as you move forward.

Planning Without a Clear Purpose

Before you can plan well, you need to know why you're planning. Without a defined purpose, you won't be able to determine what fits into the plan and what doesn't. If you're working on a marketing plan, for example, you need to know if the purpose is to generate more leads, more sales, more exposure, or more engagement with current customers.

The more specific the purpose, the more you can customize the plan for the purpose, which makes it more likely that your plan will be successful. Avoid planning without purpose by making a clearly defined purpose the first requirement of every plan, every time.

Again, it is all about goals and objectives - if your plan does not feature them, why even have a plan in the first place?

Planning Too Much

A good plan includes a clear purpose as well as behavior guidelines and the steps needed to accomplish the purpose. It might also include estimated timeframes, needed resources, expenses, and potential obstacles. Too little information makes a plan pointless; too much detail makes it burdensome. The key to a functional plan is to include enough information, and then stop.

Remember that a plan gives you a starting point, but it can't predict the entire journey. It's a map, not a crystal ball. As you use the plan, you'll need to adjust when you encounter the unexpected (which you should expect).

The more detailed a plan, the less flexible it becomes. Try to build a plan that gives you enough information to see the general layout of the road, but not so much that you're counting mile markers and planning pit stop purchases before you ever start the engine.

Planning with the Wrong Information

Now, this is really bad. Planning based on misinformation is arguably the worst mistake a manager can make. You have to be careful with the information you have and double (no, triple) check everything that is being used for your plan, especially when it comes to expenses and earnings.

Beware the trifecta of bad information that can plague planners: assumptions, anecdotes, and bad research. Assumptions are insidious little things that can blind you to the most obvious and important questions: Is there actually a demand for this product? Is this design really feasible? Do I really want to reach this goal? Does this project actually benefit the business?

When it comes to anecdotes, remember this basic rule: anecdotal evidence is not evidence at all. Do actual research to get real evidence. And make sure that the research you do gets you the right data. Irrelevant data may be accurate, but it's not helpful.

Your target market may enjoy dining out; but if they're also health-conscious retirees on a limited income, your upscale gourmet burger restaurant will fail. Make sure that your research connects directly with your defined purpose in order to get the information you really need.

Conclusion

That was our take on the five most common planning pitfalls and how to avoid them - we hope you enjoyed the article. If you did, be sure to check our other materials located in the Blog sections. Good luck with your planning!

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