Why Planning is Valuable (but Plans are Not)


John Nieuwenburg

John Nieuwenburg has been a professional business coach since 2004. Prior to becoming a coach, he held executive positions with Tip Top Tailors and BC Liquor Stores. In 2019, MacKay CEO Forums awarded him with Canada’s CEO Trusted Advisor Award in the Small Business category. Since becoming a coach, John has worked with over 350 clients, taking them through a systematic process that helps them feel organized, confident and in control of their businesses.

Let’s be frank; plans got tossed out the window this year.

Many business owners had to pivot (and then pivot again…and again) as the world adjusted to ever changing best practices and rules. Even the finest laid plans went sideways.

Planning a wedding? It probably got disrupted. Wanted to travel? Chances are that your itinerary changed. Tasks as basic as doing weekly grocery shopping suddenly required a well thought out plan.

But a plan all by itself won’t work.

There are secondary elements necessary for success in both business and life.

As former president Eisenhower famously said, “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Who needs to plan? Everyone

An architect would never show up to a job site and say, “Okay, team! I’ve got some bricks. Let’s just start laying them down.”

Instead, he would bring a plan with each step thought out to bring his idea to fruition.

And while only a few of the 300+ clients W5 has effectively coached were architects, the same line of thinking applies.

We help our clients thoughtfully engage in a planning process that is reflective of their unique needs and that also takes into account the high likelihood the plan will have to be adapted down the road. We ask questions such as:

  • What is working?
  • What isn’t going so well? Why?
  • And most important of all…What do you want?

In simple terms, the formula for a great process can be stated like this:

planning > plan

Mike Tyson said it best, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Everyone requires a solid plan, but the real value lies in being able to adapt, stay light on your feet, and roll with the punches, so to speak.

Every month, I see people who struggle to get out of their own heads.

A plan is in there. It’s full of excellent points. Yet, it seems to just roll around endlessly, never quite becoming a real, concrete thing that makes it onto paper.

As Steven Covey has said – when humans create, they do so 3 times.

  1. First, we create in our imagination
  2. Next, we create a representation, like a blueprint or map (AKA, the plan)
  3. Finally, we manifest and make it happen for real

Unfortunately, a majority of business folks stop short at points 1 and 2. They can’t put the plan into action; it’s still bouncing around inside their head.

To get to the third step, you must consciously decide to crystalize your goals.

Now, it’s time to turn all that planning into something real.

Commit to the outcome, NOT the plan!

The people who achieve their dreams don’t do so simply because they had a good plan.

Instead, they commit themselves fully to the goals they have set. They maintain a clear vision of what they want, and they work hard to make it happen.

Tell yourself that it’s not a matter of if, but when and how.

I would encourage you to say something like this:

“The only thing left to negotiate is how much effort reaching my goal will take. But the fact that I am getting what I want is not up for discussion. It’s not up for debate. With the right planning, my success is inevitable.”

Of course, such deep commitment isn’t easy.

The plan will change. The process will evolve. It can be tempting to desperately hang onto an original plan – even one that’s failing – if you aren’t sure what next step to take.

That’s where a professional business coach can really help!

If you’d like some help getting to the next level, I invite you to book a free 15-minute consultation call to discuss how good planning can benefit your business.

The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Better Business Owner

become a better owner

If an owner wants a better business, first the business needs a better owner.

This post is part of my Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Better Business Owner. Visit the guide homepage to get my best advice and coaching exercises to help you with:

  • Mindset. Thinking like an owner and seeing the big picture of your business.
  • Planning. Deciding what you want, setting a goal, and making plans to get after it.
  • Habits. Changing your behaviours to help you get what you want.
  • Learning. Getting new information and developing new skills.
  • Growth. Facing your fears, stepping outside your comfort zone, and doing what it necessary to create the business of your dreams.