“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
We use this phrase a lot in two contexts: first, we freely admit, and accept, that our plans may not work out as expected, which is a risk. We then discuss how we manage that risk by a thorough planning process that takes into account the existence of scenarios as opposed to a singular rosy vision of the world. In other words, good plans identify probabilities of various events and then seek to plot a course that is responsive to the array of possible futures. In other fields with different problems, this approach is sometimes described as game theory.
The second context in which we find ourselves repeating this maxim is when we review business “plans” of startups seeking our help either through our Coordinated Market Entry service offering or through our affiliated investing entity, Namahagi Ventures. A startup seeking millions in investment needs a real plan, if only to provide evidence to investors that when the plan turns out to be wrong, the founders will have already thought through the issues and tradeoffs and will be immediately prepared to undertake a new course of action.
Scenario planning is one project we often undertake where this quote could be shortened to “planning is indispensable.” It is the embodiment of planning in an environment of uncertainty, in which no one know what is actually going to happen. Please note that there is a difference between business plans and scenario planning. Good business planners plan for the expected and are prepared for the unexpected. Scenario planning takes that process further into the future by preparing for likely changes based on expectations about macroeconomic trends and similar big-picture events that should trigger a change in, or at least a review of, strategy.