Prioritize Doing over Planning

Category: Strategy

This week as I was responding to emails I found myself typing the following words to explain why I was not attending a strategy meeting:

“Sometimes I need to prioritize doing over planning.”


Yes, Karen Jett, the queen of strategy who is constantly reminding (some say nagging) everyone to set time aside to think strategically and create long-term planning actually stated in writing that sometimes you need to prioritize doing over planning. Wow!

I actually shocked myself a little.

Planning is important. In fact, it is critical to the long-term success of your company. But, if all you do is plan and you never execute those things that you identify as strategic and key to your success you have wasted your time.

Thinking deeply and strategically about your company, what it stands for, where you want it to go, and how you plan to get there is only the first step. For some people, this is the hardest step. It’s easier for them to stay busy with busy work than to really work on the business. They will avoid the planning process out of fear of it being challenging or learning an unpleasant truth.

Other small business owners are constantly thinking about the future, identifying the big picture they want to achieve. It’s easy for them to envision what they want to achieve; they are challenged by translating it into smaller action steps. As a result, they also actively avoid the formalized planning process.

Still others embrace the planning process. However, this does not guarantee that they will be the most successful because step two is every bit as important as step one.

What is step two? It’s the implementation of the plan you have created. In other words, it’s the doing. I have known people who have spent so much time creating the plan and tracking the plan that actually doing the plan became secondary and an afterthought. They could have accomplished twice as much if they had simply concentrated their time and efforts on working the plan rather than tweaking or tracking it.

For some people, in fact for many small business owners, the doing is the part they are most comfortable with…that is, as long as it’s in their area of strength. Strategic planning is the tool that ensures they are doing all the things they need to do in order to reach the future state they desire.

However, some small business owners get stumped when they approach the doing stage. They are better at the big picture and have trouble translating that picture into the smaller steps that facilitate implementation. Others simply allow themselves to be sucked into the vortex of daily activities. All of these individuals may have wonderful visions and plans and still fail because they are unable to successfully prioritize the implementation of their plan. Which brings us back full circle to:

Sometimes you need to prioritize doing over planning.

What’s the correct ratio of planning to doing? This is not a question that has a single answer. It will be different for each and every business. However, a basic rule that will help you calculate this ratio is to break down your plan into small chunks like months or quarters. Make a goal to achieve set tasks within very specific timelines. And be careful to ensure that what you list is truly achievable. When these tasks are completed it is time to change from doing back to planning – at least long enough to identify what your next most important strategic tasks are.

I wish you growth and success as you prioritize your doing.