Strategic Planning: The Tyranny of the Urgent vs The Triumph of the Important

Strategic Planning: The Tyranny of the Urgent vs The Triumph of the Important

We all know we need a plan, right? So, why don’t we sit down and write one? Is it because we don’t know what to put in it? Is it because we don’t have time? All the data suggests that having a plan is more likely to help you succeed than not having a plan. So, if we know that writing down our goals will help us achieve them, then why don’t we?
We have a theory about this. With the clients that we work with, many do not have a strategic plan when we arrive. The ‘plan’ usually lives in the mind of the ownership or managers. The problem with this is two-fold. One, if it is in your head, you likely have not really thought through the implementation part of planning. And, two, your team cannot read your mind. How do you expect your staff to help implement the plan if they don’t know all the aspects of it?

Time Management Matrix*

This graphic we found on the internet does a really great job of articulating why we think many organizations don’t have a written plan. Just think about your average day. You probably spend upwards of 90% of your time, or more, in quadrants 1, 3, and 4. Quadrant 1, where you are putting out fires, is likely taking the lion’s share of your time. But that is just a symptom, of spending too much time in quadrants 3 and 4…The cure is to spend more time in quadrant 2. That’s the quadrant where planning sits. You know it’s important, but usually not urgent, so it takes a backseat. For a fun exercise, sit down and write out what you do every day, and put it to the urgent/important test, and see where you are spending the majority of your time. If it’s not in quadrant 2, ask yourself if you spent more time in quadrant 2, would you spend less time in quadrant 1? Hmmm, kind of makes you think. Now, easy enough for us to say, because we are big fans of planning. Maybe too much so. We love a To Do list, which is the very beginning of planning, because we love marking things off the list. Heck, we like putting stuff on the list that we just completed, just so we can mark it off. C’mon, you know you’ve done it too. Regardless of your love or hate for planning, we know that you agree it should be more of a priority in your business.

Scheduling the Time
Let’s talk about making the time to plan. We are in a fast paced world and most customer centric businesses tend to be very reactive. The polar opposite of planning. The customer says “jump” or there is a service issue that needs to be addressed, and we are on it! But, have you ever taken the time to plan in advance how to create a better customer experience, so that issues arise less frequently? And if you have, how does that translate all the way to the front line, where the employees that control the customer’s experience the most live? In today’s increasingly commoditized and regulated landscape, in every sector of business, it is increasingly more critical that organizations address this and create compelling differentiation in the customer’s eyes. To do so requires strategic and thoughtful planning, and to do that, requires time and relentless commitment to making sure it happens. We don’t mean that you need to head to the woods for a week with a notebook and sit under a tree, sing songs and make s’mores. (Although that does sound fun!) We just mean, have a meeting with your team and talk about vision and strategy, start the discussion, don’t just discuss the issues at hand. Work hard to spend more of your day, and more time during meetings, in quadrant 2…the most important but often not urgent tasks on your list that don’t get checked off.

We have written a number of blogs on planning that we think you’ll enjoy. [Hyperlink blogs on planning] But it truly does start with you planning for the time to plan. So, whether you are an owner, principal, manager or sales rep-you need a plan. You know you need one. So, dig deep on this one…what is keeping you from writing one? Fear that you won’t hit the goals? Uncertainly about what to write? Do us this one favor….start writing. The rest will fall into place. If you need a little help, we’d be happy to coach you through it! Give us a call!

*We found this graphic at If you Google “urgent important matrix” you will get a plethora of images, many with ideas for filling in the associated tasks.