Good Plans Go Wrong

Jennifer Hester |

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” - George S. Patton

"A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving." - Lao Tzu

Good plans do go wrong. A few years ago I was brought to understand the gravity of this fact. I’ve been in business almost 25 years now and know the importance of planning. It’s at the heart of what we do at Legacy Planning Group. For 12 years prior to Legacy I was responsible for the plans of multimillion dollar projects in the construction industry. So I know a little about planning.

Operation Overlord, known as the D-Day invasion, took place on June 6, 1944. Camille and I along with some good friends from church visited Normandy. For over three days our guide took us through the history of D-day and the days thereafter. It was riveting and emotional to stand on those beaches and atop the cliffs and hear about and see what had taken place. Within hours of our time there it started to become clearly obvious to me that good plans go wrong. Yet, there was a plan. Eisenhower, his Generals and the allied commanders strategized for two years prior to the invasion. Roosevelt and Churchill negotiated at length.

By the way – do you know why it was called D-Day? I’ll tell you later. Within hours of Eisenhower’s issuing command for the campaign to commence (We’ll Go!”) things began to go wrong. The amphibious assault was not going to be as simple as originally thought. German mortar shell barrages destroyed many of the amphibious vehicles “designed” to bring the tanks ashore. Most of the original tank invasion did not occur as those tanks sunk in the ocean. The weather was bad. Many paratroopers died because the cloud cover precluded pilots from knowing exactly where to drop the bombs. Hundreds of paratroopers died in fields of shallow water (under the burden of their heavy packs) that the enemy had created inland. The paratroopers had a primary purpose to secure certain roads and bridges so that once troops and tanks reached inland parts they would have secured routes. Troops who reached the 100 meter cliffs of Pont Du Hoc found that once they got to the tops of their ladders they were blown backwards due to heavy winds coming from inland ways. Some of those soldiers carried 100 pound rolls of water-soaked rope up those ladders. Glider pilots had missions to take small numbers of troops to secure bridges. Imagine their dismay to learn they could not see the ground. Some of you may be familiar with the Pegasus Bridge campaign. Tears welled up in my eyes as we all stood at that location and heard and saw what took place. Yes – I do have pictures I took there. The courage and ingenuity of those pilots is something to behold. George Patton, at one time in the campaign told his soldiers that they should not fear death because only 2% of them would die. How do you like those statistics? A 98% survival probability?

Yet, in spite of all the things that went wrong (and rest assured I have only mentioned here just a very small number of them), the US and allied forces prevailed. The Utah beach, believed to be the most difficult, turned out to be the easiest and least costly to capture. The Germans miscalculated the invasion time and location. If my recollection serves me correctly, the US and Allied forces had secured the beaches within 19 hours and by June 19th, almost 150,000 soldiers had made their way inland by way of those beaches.

The master plan prevailed. Victory was gained. It was hard fought and there were many plans. The Vision and Mission was secure. Our values and sense of purpose drove us. Strategic plans determined tactical action. Execution mattered mightily. A willingness to modify plans mattered as tactical execution failed or faltered.

So here’s my question for you – What’s your plan? Have you completed all the items of your action plan? Do you need to update your action plan? Is it time, having completed all the items of your action plan, to establish another? Are your originally established plans going wrong? Is it time to regroup? What might the implications be if you have no plan?

Our individual lives don’t necessarily correlate to the magnitude of something as large as an epic D-Day invasion but I hope it draws your attention to the fact that plans are necessary. Most all of you, as our clients, have engaged us to help you develop and execute an initial action plan. In this we are greatly satisfied. Yet we know that plans can go haywire or can get off track. And it isn’t just about getting good long term investment returns. The only value of money is in its’ use. It’s time to revisit what’s important about money to you.

This year Legacy Planning Group enters its’ 25th year of business. We are excited about what lies ahead. We are developing a vision and mission for the next 25. In the months ahead you’ll hear more about this. Very soon you’ll also be receiving a “Save the Date” notification for something very special we have in store for you. Every year since inception Legacy Planning Group has had a business plan. Some of you may even recall that I hired a business consultant for $1000 per month (in 1990 dollars) when we didn’t have those kind of funds coming in. She challenged me then to trust her. I did. Glad I did. She and her counsel is still special to me. We have diligently sought to implement the long term vision and mission created many years ago. Each year greater clarity has been achieved increasing our sense of confidence and capability. And yet, each year it is safe to say we have had good plans go wrong. There have been times when the “cloud cover” did not let us see the ground. But, isn’t that how we are supposed to live – by faith? Hebrews 11 gives us approximately 24 examples of “By Faith.” So, we continue. How about you?

As we all enter 2015 it’s time to ask: What needs to be adjusted, added upon, improved, revised or done over? For the better part of two years D-Day was considered, deliberated and planned. Isn’t your life and finances worth a percentage of that time? Now for the answer to the question: Why was it called D-Day? D-Day is a reference to Day Day. And this because they, during their planning, did not know the exact day for the invasion.

So, think about this: Do you know the exact day you will enter into heaven? Yet - are we not called to plan accordingly? Even though plans may go wrong? Again – What might the implications be if you have no plan?
Following are some quotes worthy of reflection:

1. “A plan is a list of actions arranged in whatever sequence is thought likely to achieve an objective.” John Argenti
2. “A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door.” Confucius
3. “Always plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.” Richard Cushing
4. “There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.” Douglas H. Everett
5. “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” Peter Drucker
6. “It’s not the plan that’s important, it’s the planning.” Dr. Gramme Edwards
7. “Few people have any next, they live from hand to mouth without a plan, and are always at the end of their line.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
8. “As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.” Antoine de Saint Exupery
9. “To accomplish great things, we must not only act but also dream. Not only plan but also believe.” Anatole France
10. “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin
11. “A good plan is like a road map: it shows the final destination and usually the best way to get there.” H. Stanely Judd
12. “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” Alan Lakein, writer
13. “If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it.” Abraham Lincoln
14. “It’s easy to come up with new ideas; the hard part is letting go of what worked for you two years ago, but will soon be out of date.” Roger von Oech
15. “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” Geoge S. Patton
16. “If you are failing to plan, you are planning to fail.” Tariq Siddique
17. “Planning ahead is a measure of class. The rich and even the middle class plan for generations, but the poor can plan ahead only a few weeks or days.” Gloria Steinam
18. “Planning is a process of choosing among those many options. If we do not choose to plan, then we choose to have others plan for us.” Richard I. Winwood
19. “Reduce your plan to writing. The moment you complete this, you will have definitely given concrete form to the intangible desire.” Napoleon Hill
20. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, the wise man is he who listens to counsel.” Proverbs 12:15
21. The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. Proverbs 21:5
22. “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.” I Timothy 4:15
23. “It is better to be proactive than reactive.” Stephen Covey
24. “The longer the term of your thinking, the better your decision today.” Ron Blue
25. “How Should We Then Live.” Francis Schaeffer