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Principle-Centered Planning: Part 1

By John C. Maxwell | June 11, 2011
Principle-Centered Planning: Part 1

If you’ve ever gone whitewater rafting, then you know the importance of planning. Whenever the raft approaches rapids, the guide has to plan the best route to navigate safely through them. If the guide fails to plan, then the raft can easily smash into a rock or capsize.

Four Types of Planning

Passive planning happens when leadership allows the raft to travel downstream at the mercy of the current rather than steering, rowing, and turning. This kind of non-planning eventually leaves you unprepared to face whitewater rapids. Worse yet, in the absence of a plan, the current may take the raft over the edge of a dreaded waterfall.

Panic planning happens only after the raft is in trouble. At this point, all of the organization’s resources are scrambled in a reactionary pattern in an attempt to solve the problem. With panic planning, you may or may not come out alive and well, but you are guaranteed some bumps and bruises.

Scientific planning is viable, but can be laborious, mechanical, and often ends up abandoned in the process. Imagine if a raft guide constantly tried to measure the depth of the water, the distance between rocks, the wind speed, and the water current. Although the information might be helpful, oftentimes the water would be moving too swiftly to take the measurements. In a like manner, leaders often have to respond to change in an instant. There’s no time to collect scientific data on all of the variables before deciding which course of action is best.

Principle-centered planning is the key to effectiveness. It is the artistic or leadership approach. Principle-centered planning recognizes that life in general (and people in particular) can’t be graphed on a chart, but sees that planning still remains essential.

Reasons Why People Don’t Plan

You don’t have to be in leadership very long to learn that planning pays off. Even so, many people don’t plan. Here are four reasons why people neglect planning.

1) They don’t possess planning skills or knowledge.
Some people don’t have an innate ability to project themselves into the future. They’ve never been taught to prioritize their day or to prepare for tomorrow.

2) They’re caught in the tyranny of the urgent, and they believe that they don’t have time.
Some people allow themselves to be pulled into the vortex of minutiae. As a consequence, they end up buried under a sea of details, and they can’t pull their heads above water long enough to plan.

3) They don’t like the perceived hassle of planning.
Instead of planning one event at a time, they become overwhelmed by the mountain of things to plan.

4) Many people don’t plan because the outcome varies greatly.
“After all,” they say, “When I do make a plan, it normally doesn’t end up happening, so why bother?”

Why Planning Is Essential

We all have desires and dreams, yet we’ll never accomplish our dreams in life just by wanting them bad enough. Planning bridges the gap between our desires and dreams by calling us to action. As noted by William Danforth, “”No plan is worth the paper it is printed on unless it starts you doing something.” A concrete plan supplies us with tangible steps to take in the direction of our dreams.

Qualities of Principle-Centered Planning

• Principle-centered planning allows us to be flexible without losing focus.
• Principle-centered planning allows us to be creative without losing concentration.
• Planning is the structure. Principle-centered planning is the flesh.
• Planning is the roadmap. Principle-centered planning is the movement.
• Planning is the idea. Principle-centered planning is the action.
• Planning is the paper. Principle-centered planning is the power.

It’s been said, “By failing to plan, you plan to fail.” I wholeheartedly agree. People who ignore planning handicap themselves and stifle their effectiveness.
The good news about planning is that it’s a relatively simple discipline. Anyone can do it. No PHD is required to make a solid plan – only a window of uninterrupted time for focused thought.
By now I hope you’ve been persuaded about the imperative of planning. In the next edition of Leadership Wired, I’ll unwrap seven principles to guide your planning process and help you achieve your dreams.

This is part one of a two-part series – click here to read Part Two

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