Are Plans a Waste of Time?

by Sarah Thrift on September 15, 2014

Of late, I am hearing lots of comments like the following:

  • “Business plans are dead. Who does business plans?”
  • “Plans are for large and slow-moving companies, not for entrepreneurs.”
  • “I don’t want to waste time on plans. No time for that. We need to get on and deliver.”

I couldn’t agree more with not wanting to waste time on plans. But is that the same as saying that all time spent on plans is a waste of time?


I don’t think so – and here is why.

  • A plan provides a focus for the work to be done, the interdependencies of different pieces of work, and helps ensure alignment of activities among the team. In my experience, not having things written down is a recipe for a diffusion of effort and activities. This is because typically, each person has their own unique perception of what needs to be done. Often these differences seem subtle but lead to a significant dispersion of effort.
  • Learning from the feedback on a product or service is a key part of developing it for the good of customers and the business. How to test views on a product or service and get robust feedback is an art and requires thought – which should form part of the plan. For example, the plan should list very simply what is being tested for and how this will occur.
  • A good plan provides clarity on what success looks like and in what timeframe this should be expected. This provides shared goals for everyone and enables the work done to be cleanly be evaluated against these success criteria.

A plan need be neither long nor tortuous. Rather, plans should be short, succinct and precise. They should be thought of as an aid to structuring the work to be done in a way which maximizes learnings and hence most helps the organization with future decisions. In this way, they can provide clarity, facilitate alignment and be a tool to navigate and drive success.