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Plan of Attack

You may never stick to one, but you should plan anyway.

While the 20th century was pretty much about established markets and processes, uncertainty has become the only certain element of the 21st century. So how do you plan for the future?

Dwight Eisenhower responded to the press's questions about D-Day by saying, "In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensible." Follow his lead and view planning as a verb rather than a noun. That's the only way to avoid the paradox that as soon as you announce "a plan," you'll have to change it.

In a fast-changing world, today's expert is tomorrow's idiot. There are no more off-the-shelf approaches-you have to create a plan of your own. Take it from a futurist: The key to the future lies in the questions, not the answers. Here are some questions I ask myself about my business.

  • Do we know who we are? What we believe in?
  • Do we know where we want to go in one year? Five years? Twenty years and beyond?
  • What are the five worst things that could happen to us? Are we prepared for each of them?
  • How do we measure our success?
  • What could totally disrupt our market that we can prepare for?
  • Do we actually listen to our customers, suppliers and employees?
  • What one behavior are we going to collectively change this year? (It's hard to change things...let's go for one thing.)
  • What are our true core competencies? How do we expand them into other markets?
  • Do we benchmark against other industries and not just against firms in our industry?

There has never been a more important time to plan . . . nor a better time for you to rely on your own counsel as you do it.


Watts Wacker-lecturer, bestselling author, political commentator, social critic and CEO of FirstMatter-is one of the world's most respected futurists.

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This article was originally published in the September 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Plan of Attack.

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