How important are strategic plans?

I think I’ll leave this one to the great poet Mike Tyson who once said:

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

In this famous quote Tyson wittily points to the fultility of pre-conceived plans in the face of the unexpected. This also reminds me of the Yiddish saying… “when man plans, God laughs”.

Rather than relying on the misguided notion that leaders have the God-like ability to strategically plan for the future, Frank Barrett points out in his marvellous book Yes to the Mess that it is in the context of the unknown… “even crises, that learning comes most alive. When there’s a breakdown, managers have to do what jazz players yearn to do—abandon routines and respond in the moment.” For Barrett, it is in these circumstances that leaders have to “respond from their gut, sometimes discovering skills they never knew they had and solutions they had never previously imagined.”

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