Do you find planning to be a near-death experience?

Planning is a near-death experience. We step out of living (COURT), and we step into talking about living (LOCKER ROOM). At best, planning helps us become organized and take action. In the business environment, it more often serves as giving us something to do so we do not have to actually do anything.

These are strong words to say for someone who makes his living by helping to solve complex problems and drive system-wide change and transformation. Planning is obviously an essential component of this line of work. The problem is that there is no risk in planning. Planning is comfortable. By contrast, when we are on the COURT—committing resources, changing polices, forging new agreements, integrating new systems, releasing new products and services to the market, putting saw to wood, ordering troops to attack—there is huge risk of looking bad, being wrong, being uncomfortable, getting fired, or even getting killed.

This PRIME began to reveal itself when we were asked to support an 18-month transformation effort in Washington, DC. Regular meetings were scheduled for leadership to participate. Near the end of our first planning meeting, with only 30 minutes to go, we asked, “Is there anything obvious that we could take on now to get this transformation started?” People were flustered. They said, “We are only ...

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