Know Where You Are or Where You’re Going?
In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
—Dwight D. Eisenhower
Not long ago I decided to take half a day and straighten my office. In the process, I came upon a three-ring binder that contained the strategic plan from 2003. The plan described Niles’s situation at the time. We were a company whose core competency was passive analog distributed audio sold through specialty retailers and we were facing a transition to an active digital world.
The original iPod had just been introduced; XM and Sirius were launching; touchscreens were becoming popular—and we had a warehouse full of switchboxes and volume controls. What to do? Obviously, we had a choice to make. After much debate, we decided that the best course of action would be to reinvent ourselves. We would begin the development of an advanced multizone system that incorporated all of these popular new digital sources and included innovative two-way wireless remote controls and easy wizard-based programming. But how would we do it? We would need to develop an entire set of new skills including digital hardware design coupled with extensive software development and testing.
Did our plan detail exactly what we would do and how and when we would do it? No, it didn’t. But it did provide a solid framework that has guided our decision making for the last five years. In retrospect, it is easy to see how we could never have made the transition without it.
I chose the Eisenhower quote above because it sums up my philosophy on planning perfectly. In the end, it is not so much the plan itself but the act of planning that matters. Why is this? Because no one can accurately predict the future and no plan survives the challenges of things we can’t control.