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Is planning any good?

"We should be careful not to exhaust our available time on things that are merely good and leave little time for that which is better or best."
- Dallin Oaks

As I approach the final two weeks of the calendar year, it is time for me to wind up the projects I've been working on through the year, look back and reflect on how things worked out, what went right and what went wrong, and to begin outlining the projects and goals that I want to take up in the next calendar year. 

The activity is central to all of this is planning. 

Without planning, it is not easy to understand where we stand, what milestones we have hit and where to go next. Without planning, it is not possible to look back and say what went right and what went wrong. It is possible to do that. But there would be no point to it. It would be like the Southpark episode featuring the superhero - Captain Hindsight, whose amazing superpower is to look back on what has happened and say exactly what measures should have been taken to prevent it.

Donald Trump won? This is what Hillary Clinton should have done different. 

The point of that superpower is zero. It's utility is zero. 

While planning let's us do all of these things, that's not the reason to do it. We don't collect metrics for our product just so that we can look back and make sense out of it. That's not how we ought to work with data. Metric collection is an exercise that starts with a deliberate definition of what ought to be measured and why and how. 

And so it is with planning. 

A lot of you might be thinking up resolutions for the New Year. But that is like collecting metrics for your product without deliberately defining why you want to collect them.

The objective of planning is not to discipline yourself and force yourself to do things that you otherwise wouldn't. It isn't like school where someone decides what the syllabus ought to be, what the exams are like, when the classes are, when the tests are, and how many marks are needed to secure the different grades on offer. 

Planning is a deliberate exercise in prioritization and end state definition. You start by jotting down where you want to be at the end of the year and work back by identifying the different milestones you ought to hit in order to get there.

Planning is not about creating moulds where you pour molten metal in later to take that shape. Planning is simply a decision making tool. 

Once you have a plan, any time a new task or a new opportunity comes up that isn't on the plan, you have a basis to evaluate it against. You know what you'll be giving up if you do decide to take it up. And that is all planning is.

It is simply a tool to help make informed decisions.

So is it any good? Like any other tool, it depends on who is using it and for what.

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