Why You Should Postpone Your Planning
Leaders plan stuff. It’s just what we do. We don’t stroll into an event or a calendar year unless we’re armed to the teeth with plans, contingency plans, emergency plans for our contingency plans, and worst-case scenario scorched-earth plans in case our emergency contingency plans break down.
Or maybe that’s just me.
That’s why using a phrase like “postpone your planning” seems so foreign to me and makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little. After all, what good is a plan if you can’t know today what you’re going to be having for dinner four years from today?
But here’s why it can be important to postpone your planning: when the eventual overtakes the immediate, you have an unnecessary distraction.
I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been in (or led) a meeting where the planned agenda was overtaken by a rabbit trail chasing something that was months or years or infinity away. Sure, the discussion was fun, robust, and maybe even needed, but it wasn’t needed right now. And so, the eventual overtook the immediate, and we lost sight of the goal for that day.
In his book Death By Meeting (which I highly recommend), Patrick Lencioni breaks down the four basic meetings every team should have:
- The Daily Check-In: a five minute standing meeting to report on their activities that day
- The Weekly Tactical: 45-90 minutes to talk metrics and move the ball down the field
- The Monthly Strategic: at least two hours per topic, resulting in open-ended conversation and debate
- The Quarterly Off-Site Review: one to two days to review strategy and develop the team
In full disclosure, my team (our Central Guest Services Team, consisting of me and two others) uses Lencioni’s structure as a suggestion, not a rule. Because we all live in a corner of the cubicle farm together, the Daily Check-In is more organic than it is set on the schedule. We live and die by our Weekly Tactical. And we’ve set up a hybrid of the Monthly Strategic and Quarterly Off-Site.
But therein lies the magic of postponing our planning. We have a Quarterly Mini-Retreat on our calendar, and the agenda for those retreats gets built throughout the year.
For example: if we’re in a Weekly Tactical and a good, healthy conversation begins to get in the weeds, we’ll often opt to postpone that talk until a quarterly retreat. That allows us to stay on the topic at hand, but know that we’ll have more than sufficient time to chase the rabbit at a later date.
One quick word on the format of our Quarterly Mini-Retreats: they typically go from 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 or 4:00 p.m. (longer if the topic(s) call for it). We’ll have a light breakfast together, a working lunch, and plenty of whiteboard space and Post-It Notes to keep the conversation flowing. In the past, the planning we’ve postponed until the retreat has included strategizing for a major event, working on dates for an entire ministry year, writing curriculum for a new training, or drafting our team’s values.
One would think that a 4-5 hour meeting really does bring death (nod to Lencioni), but our team looks forward to these as a time to break out of the norm and make some progress on our projects.
How do you press pause when your eventual overtakes your immediate?