Five Common Planning Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them
Dmitry Davydov 1 June 2015
Plans are useful maps to follow in pursuit of a goal. But plans are never perfect, and these five common mistakes could turn the greatest plan into a disaster. Check them out so you'll know what not to do next time you're creating a plan.
Pitfall 1: 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. Pitfall 2: Planning Too Late Some possibilities 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.
Pitfall 3: 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.
Pitfall 4: 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 lay-out of the road, but not so much that you're counting mile markers and planning pit stop purchases before you ever start the engine.
Pitfall 5: Planning with the Wrong Information 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.