When I was at Merrill Lynch, I kept a sign above my desk that read: “Don’t confuse brains with a bull market.” This meant that more often that not, if I made a recommendation that worked out great, it didn’t mean I was brilliant.
I’m reminded of this every time I look at a typical business or sales and marketing plan. These documents, which take a tremendous amount of time and effort to write, often, do a great disservice to the authors.
Too many businesses make the mistake of over-thinking and analyzing. The fact is, no matter how much time someone spends thinking about an action, researching its potential, and considering how to make it work – no one can know whether or not it works without first taking it to the market.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against planning – I’m against over-planning. I’m against believing that the more thinking that goes into project, the better its chances of succeeding. I’m against substituting pages and pages of strategy for the reality of going live in the marketplace. The point of a plan is to provide guidance. I believe it was Winston Churchill who once said, “Plans are useless, but planning is invaluable.”
The best plans are those that tell you what you should do next, not what you should do five years down the road. For that matter, I believe that any plan that is more than a page long is designed only to create the illusion of certainty for the author (or the company that had it written). Remember, actions are always better than more words. So plan ahead – and realize that even with plan in hand, there’s only one thing that you can plan on with certainty: you can’t know what will happen until it does.