The importance of planning

The phrase used to begin this article comes from a professor who taught me some thirty years ago. Three decades later, it is still very relevant.


Juan Forero

Reading time: 4 min

Neither paralysing planning nor irresponsible improvisation

As a Venezuelan, I take the license to include in this text that we are known for our inventiveness, for our ability to face particular situations and find solutions. It was not by chance that the famous character from the soap opera Por estas Calles, broadcast in the 1990s, immortalised the phrase “como vaya viniendo, vamos viendo” (“as it comes, we’ll see”). We have a taste for “solving” that can lead us to move forward, but we may be doing so without taking the time to weigh up situations and, more importantly, without setting goals and targets.

In the story of Alice in Wonderland, the cat tells her: “if you don’t know where you’re going, you don’t care which way you go”. And this is how, without a roadmap, we can drift, which is particularly dangerous if we are talking about a company or a venture.

The first time I was asked to make an estimate of the business activity for the next three years, and I went to buy a crystal ball and came to the office with it saying “I already have the tool to give you what you are asking for”. But the truth is that we have to chart a path for the future. A path that is sometimes an exercise in futurology, and sometimes a guide to the goals we must strive to achieve.

Marketing planning: its stages

Most traditional marketing planning begins with a vision and a mission. The former sets out “what we want to become”, while the latter gives clues as to how we intend to achieve it.

Do I know my company’s vision? If I have a venture, have I considered what I want it to become in the long term?
Life circumstances can be very changeable, especially in our times when we live with terms like VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) to describe what we are facing. In environments like this, a vision can serve to remind us where we are going and redirect our efforts.

The same is true when I forge a mission. Telefónica’s is based on: making the world more human by connecting people’s lives. Am I paying attention to the human side of things? Am I aware that my work is connecting lives?
The mission can inspire us and reconnect us to action. With what I have to do and with the meaning of doing it.
Now, the title talks about “paralysing planning” and so far we have only talked about how necessary it is to plan. It turns out that if we exaggerate the rigour of roles and objectives we can be tempted to believe that the plan cannot be changed.

I remember a few years ago seeing a person under my supervision come to me very upset and comment that she had been asked to do something that “wasn’t in her job description”, to which I replied that she would feel better if I added it.

The importance of reinventing oneself

The dark side of a Vision is to believe that there is nothing else outside it. Many companies disappear precisely because they do not reinvent themselves, because they convince themselves that the status quo will never change, as happened with Kodak. This company got its hands on the first digital camera and didn’t give it a thought. Another example is the story of BlackBerry, which became a giant and disappeared when it failed to recognise that the playing field had changed.

We might do well to take an honest look at those ideas that gave birth to our business. As the book “The Blue Ocean” assumes: we need to ask ourselves what we can stop doing, what we can add, what we can increase and what we can decrease.

With reviews like these, Telefonica has been reinventing itself for a century now, starting with offering fixed telephony, moving on to mobile telephony, internet, television and so much more. Leaving by the wayside those things that lost their raison d’être to make room for the new.

Having a plan with concrete objectives gives us a frame of reference to measure results. And it is when we are disciplined in following our objectives that we can recognise changes in the market, in consumer patterns or customer tastes.

In the words of Lord Kelvin: “What is not defined cannot be measured. What is not measured cannot be improved. What is not improved is always degraded“. Thus, it is in our interest to define ourselves through a vision, mission and plan; once we have set our objectives, we must measure them in order to have the opportunity to improve, adapt and reinvent ourselves.


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