Today vs. Tomorrow: Thoughts on Execution vs. Planning

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You must have long range goals to keep you from being frustrated by short range failures. (Charles Noble)

Sometimes though, it isn't easy to sell long-range to managers who are more concerned with today's numbers than next year's. For them, next year doesn't exist. It's an abstraction. All that matters is what you did yesterday and what you are doing today. This is a difficult paradigm for those of us who spend more time planning than actually executing.

Ideally, as a business, program or project manager, you want to split your time and strategies between winning today's battles and planning your overwhelming victory sometime in the future. (Maybe in 6 months. Maybe in a year. Maybe in five years. Who knows.) My point is that you can't put all of your eggs in the "today" basket or in the "tomorrow" basket. It can't be an 80/20 split either. It really needs to be a 50/50 (or 60/40) split one way or another.

If you spend considerably more time focusing on "today," you will still be in the same spot a year from now - treading water - reacting to everything instead of influencing your business environment.

If you spend considerably more time focusing on "tomorrow," then your execution suffers, nothing gets done, and you'll never reap the rewards of all that meticulous planning you spent so much time on.

This may seem like common sense to most of you, but I can assure you that for tens of thousands of business managers in the US, the equation looks like 90/10 in favor of "today." For these folks, "tomorrow" is something you might get to later, when you have a few minutes to breathe. This is not good.

Don't wait until your car is completely out of gas to get a refill. Don't wait until you have a 102 fever to call the doctor. Don't wait until the morning of a test to study for it.

The world of business is no different.

image: Andrew Testa for the New York Times

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