What is your objective when you do long-range planning?  What are you hoping to accomplish?  One of the whiteboard drawings that I often include in my work is a version of what you see to the left.  The point?  There is no problem-free solution.  Instead, every possible solution is really an opportunity to choose the set of problems you’d rather have.  This is a key assumption at the beginning of any planning session.

Once you’ve arrived at the conclusion that there really is no problem-free, the next step might be to clarify the purpose of long-range planning.  In determining that purpose, I love this quote from Peter Drucker’s Managing for Results:

"Long-range planning does not—and cannot—aim at the elimination of risks and uncertainties.  That is not given to mortal man.  The one thing he can try is to find, and occasionally to create, the right risk and to exploit uncertainty.  The purpose of the work on making the future is not to decide what should be done tomorrow, but what should be done today to have a tomorrow (p. 173)."

What’s the point?  There are several really good ones:

  • Long-range planning isn’t about eliminating risks and uncertainties (there is no problem-free)
  • Long-range planning is about finding the right risk (you can choose the problem-set you’d rather have)
  • Long-range planning is about making decisions today that will make tomorrow possible.

Take the pebbles from my hand, Grasshopper.  Gotta love Drucker!

P.S. For more on Problem-free check out this previous post: The Pursuit of Problem-Free.

The Purpose of Long-Range Planning