Plans, wherefore art thou plans?Published on October 11, 2010.
Someone once told me, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” And, so I’ve been saying the same thing to clients and prospects for years. Thus, it is not surprising that I have been writing, contributing to, editing, and amending all kinds of plans during my tenure in the agency business. Business Plans. Marketing Plans. Public Relations Plans. Media Plans. Crisis Management Plans. Planning Plans. Okay, not the last one.
But where are these plans? Most are not on the desktop, either computer or actual. Alas, most are in desk drawers or filing cabinets or in folders in laptops.
Entrepreneurs know that banks require Business Plans before they lend money for start-ups. And, that Plan is followed. For a while. Then when overtaken by events (OBE), the Plan is mentally amended, abandoned, or forgotten. But it is safely stored in a file cabinet somewhere. The fate of the business is no longer tied to the Business Plan. Success or failure is the result of many other forces and/or leadership, the strength or weakness thereof.
Marketing and Public Relations Plans often have the same fate as Business Plans. But first they have served useful purposes: creative thinking, big ideas, action stimulation, upper echelon buy-in, etc. Then they are safely stored somewhere.
Media Plans usually have a shorter shelf life. They are necessary in the development or implementation of a budget. Once the Plan is approved and the insertion orders distributed, however, the Plan is no longer needed so it is safely stored somewhere.
Crisis Management Plans are essential to virtually all medium to large size businesses. Development of a Crisis Management Plan requires the involvement of top management and a number of other key executives, whether it is written in-house or by a Public Relations Consultant/Agency. It is a time intensive effort, and—once completed—everyone involved is briefed on his or her role in its implementation, even while everyone feels/hopes that it will never really be necessary. Often they are right. But not always. The Achilles Heel of a Crisis Management Plan is, that while it is safely stored in a somewhere, replacement executives are rarely told about it. So, if a crisis does indeed occur, the replacement executive may not have time to find the right file cabinet or do a computer search before he or she must take action. In well-run companies, the PR Director will be on the phone in a crisis to provide guidance and instructions.
So, if Plans on which much time—and money—was invested are gathering dust, what can be done about it?
Perhaps each company should have a “Plans Appreciation Day.” On that day, every executive who has a Plan(s) that is/are still operational and functional should be required to take it/them out of wherever they are safely stored and actually read it/them. Such an undertaking might motivate new thinking and initiate activity to the benefit of the company and, perhaps, even the executive.
So, if you are developing a Plan of any kind, be sure to specify a date for the annual Plan Appreciation Day. Remember, it has to be a working day!