Planning Is Overrated

A number of years ago I read a piece in the Wall Street Journal that talked about the dangers of adhering too closely to a plan. The point of the article was this:

If you stick slavishly to what you plan to do you might miss better opportunities that pop up along the way.

In Bottom Up Marketing, Al Ries and Jack Trout speak of strategic planning as being overrated as well. These two gentlemen, who have guided the marketing world for years with best-sellers such as Positioning and Marketing Warfare, caution us not to let steadfast adherence to a strategy prevent us from finding winning tactics along the way. They point out that strategy is often done by making certain assumptions, but if those assumptions don't hold true in the face of reality, then we're better off being open to the tactics that will work at that time, whether they fit with the strategy or not.

As a consultant to ad agencies, I often hear clients or people in account service complain that the ads the creative people are coming up with are not "on strategy." Having creative-directed about 100 of these sometimes impulsive animals over the years, I can certainly see how their lack of discipline occasionally derails the strategic process. At the same time (and maybe this is because I was one of those derailing creative types for so many years), I can understand that in some of those cases the creative process had the gift of accidental genius. I know because I have been there that sometimes you actually find a better way during the heat of the battle. The foxhole is a lot closer to reality than the insular war room.

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