Planning–Do I Have To?

It seems, of late, that I have been running up against the idea that planning is a waste of time. All too often, I see the admonishment to “just-do-it,” instead of taking valuable time to write down a “plan.” Besides—so we are told—plans quickly become obsolete, and entrepreneurs do not have time to keep them up to date.

Thinking about this, I recalled some studies on the subject of planning that I ran across some time ago. These studies have been published many times in many places, but I thought they were worth repeating here. The first one is from a study sponsored by the Ford Foundation:

  • 23% of the population has no idea what they want from life and as a result they have very little.
  • 67% of the population has a general idea of what they want but they don’t have any plans for how to get it.
  • Only 10% of the population has specific well-defined goals, but even then, 7 out of 10 of these people reach their goals only half the time.
  • The top 3%, however, achieved their goals 89% of the time.

Why is there such a drastic difference between the top 3% and all the others? It doesn’t stop with this one study either. Let’s look at a couple of other studies:

  • Some years ago, Yale University conducted a study that found 3% of Yale graduates had more wealth, years later, than the other 97% combined.
  • Harvard Business School did a study on its students 10 years after graduation and found that only 3% of them were financially independent.

What is the significance of this 3% number that keeps popping up in various studies? Well, it is quite simple really…in every case of the successful 3%—they wrote down their goals!

Dreams and wishes are not goals until they are written on paper as specific desired results. In some real sense, writing them down materialize them and brings them to life. The experts claim that the act of writing makes an imprint on the brain that helps set the direction of actions by a person.

Therefore, it stands to reason that as we visualize our enterprise, if we write these thoughts down in an orderly fashion, as goals or action steps, the better our chances are of successfully achieving them.

The question you need to ask yourself then, is “Do you want to be one of the 3% who fulfill their goals in life, or will you be among the 97% who generally fail?”

“Life will not go according to plan—if you do not have a plan.”
—Gary Ryan Blair (“The Goals Guy”)

Do you think writing a business plan is a waste of time? Let me know what you think.

3 thoughts on “Planning–Do I Have To?”

  1. My astute brother always says, “there’s more in the man than in the plan.” After exercising the task when he first began in business, he has long since not used one. His success, by the way, came later. Hmmm?

    Judith Ellis’s last blog post..Being Digitized

  2. Judith – When most people hear the word “plan,” they think of that formal bound document that is handed to banks and Venture Capitalists. When I think of a business plan, I visualize a cocktail napkin (the cocktail napkin has probably started more businesses than any other tool around), or doodles on a yellow scratch pad. Plans do not have to be unduly formal, but I do think they need to be written down–for all the reasons expressed in my post.

    Millions of businesses shut down each year, many of them after very short lives. My experience has been that most of these failed businesses did not begin with a well thought out plan, and rarely a written plan. I would like to see more planning and, hopefully, less failure.

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