Failing to plan is planning to fail. That mantra has been drilled into me for many years by many managers, and has proven somewhat useful as a habit. Sometimes however, I do fall into the trap of planning and not preparing… what’s the difference?

Planning is good because it sets you up in a direction. Helps you understand where you need to go, and can give you a rough idea of how to get there. Preparation is all about getting ready for the journey, ensuring that you have what it takes to nimbly address those pitfalls that will undoubtedly appear in an effort to scupper your plans.

Responding to change over following a plan.

That is one of the 4 values on the agile manifesto, and whilst we value planning, we value responding to change more. Yes in order to respond to change we need to have a plan in place first, but responding to change requires preparation. Having the right tools with you to climb a steep surface on your journey requires planning, knowing how to use those tools and be fit enough to actually climb requires preparation.

If we apply this to any work we are doing, then yes we can all agree that a plan needs to be in place. You will have a product roadmap and a product backlog which will form your plan. We can prepare to execute on that plan by ensuring our team understand the plan, and have the necessary tools and skills in order to do the work.

If in the plan you can see some unknowns approaching, are you ensuring your team is getting prepared to tackle that unknown? Maybe they need to upskill on something, or do research to understand something a bit more. That preparation is vital to any team, and it takes time.

Therefore when you plan, make sure you do not plan to the finest detail and have every day mapped out exactly. This is usually a waste of time. It’s better to have a plan of which direction you want to go and a rough idea on how to get there, and then make sure you make time to prepare for the things which are less certain along the way.