Is Future Planning a Waste of Time?

is future planning a waste of time 2

I’ve always thought short and long term goals were absolutely necessary if a person wants to progress through life. How can you dream big if you don’t think about it first? As that theory goes it would seem acceptable that companies and organizations would benefit greatly from that type of planning—and successful one’s do. They might meet daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly etc. to talk about that type of thing. But when considering long term goals, how useful is it to go blue sky five or ten years down the road? Whatever ideas and assumptions made will be grounded in the time that it’s being considered, and not based on unseen influences. For better or worse I’ve started to feel that being agile is the only way to sidestep big bets that are likely to be incorrect. I’ve talked about Agile Design briefly in the context of working at a start up for CreativeMornings and blogged about 51% design. While I’m still learning and adjusting to agile I’m starting to think about it the context of larger groups and businesses and how agile might be a more productive way of evolving and becoming better.

I had to laugh at Natalia Ilyin’s post titled Is scientific publishing about to be disrupted? She quotes from Michael Nielsen “There are two common explanations for the disruption of industries like minicomputers, music, and newspapers. The first explanation is essentially that the people in charge of the failing industries are stupid. How else could it be, the argument goes, that those enormous companies, with all that money and expertise, failed to see that services like iTunes and are the wave of the future?” The quote goes on and I recommend you reading the entire post. It’s really easy to question how industries are running their businesses today, but it’s also a cop out. I’m guessing all those people planned and were optimistic about the future—they had a plan. But what if the plan locked them into a strategy that didn’t allow them to shift course if needed?

I wonder a lot about that today, are people more likely to follow a plan because it’s safe? There’s steps to follow, it allows people a way of not having to think once things are set in motion. Putting some of those elements together like knowing what you want, realizing that the end point is going to deviate at during the jouney and allowing things to zig zag are unique skills to have. While understanding agile isn’t the only way to do that, I wonder other concepts to plan ahead allow for that type of shifting?

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  • Steve Portigal

    I recommend The Art of the Long View by Peter Schwartz –… – it's an introduction to scenario planning which talks about preparing for a range of alternate futures, not deciding on one selected future – it's a way to use long-term thinking to avoid exactly what you are talking about.

  • michaelsurtees

    Thanks for the suggestion—I'll def. take a look at that. Now if only I could figure out how to download that url to my iPhone…

  • septiadysubagio

    I don't think it's a waste of time, because I like ti make plans. It does helped me a lot to reach my mid term and long term goals. To some people it might not works, because they like the spontaneous life style.

  • Matt Daniels

    Seth Godin has some great literature on failing industries.

    His hypothesis is that employees at companies are inherently risk-averse. Taking any type of disruptive action is not worth the risk of losing your job and having to own to a failed initiative.

    It's much easier for managers to coast on a failing business model than try to create something new. Even CEOs will create a “dummy” plan to save their business model from ruin, but the reality is that when the shit hits the fan, they will be long gone and the middle managers cannot have the finger pointed at them.