AB Thinks  →  1st November 2023

Plans are worthless, but planning is everything

AB Thinks

Dwight Eisenhower’s famous quote about the importance of planning reminds us the process of creating a plan is often more important than the plan itself.

Organisations move fast, and your plan will inevitably have to change. But time spent thinking about how to turn your team’s vision into reality is never wasted.

However, only one-third of internal comms teams have a ‘master plan’ for the year ahead, according to Gallagher’s latest State of the Sector Survey.

We asked Katie Macaulay, AB’s Managing Director, to share her insights about comms planning and the benefits of AB’s bespoke planning workshop.

Why do you think only one-third of internal comms teams have a one-year master plan?

For two reasons. One, planning is important but rarely urgent. Intuitively, we know the value of a good plan, but there are so many pressing demands on internal comms teams just now that the temptation is to skip creating the master plan and focus on delivering what’s needed today.

Two, planning is tricky! It tends to expose all kinds of issues: a lack of clarity around the wider business vision, a mismatch between a team’s ambition and its resources and even the overarching purpose of the internal communications team itself. What role does the team seek to play in the business, and what value does it seek to add?

IC teams need a structured, logical conversation to get their planning underway. And it helps if an independent third party facilitates this discussion. Hopefully, we ask the smart, critical questions that help make the plan stronger.

What’s the first step for IC teams keen to improve their planning capabilities?

The first step is to consider the benefits of a planning session. What’s the value of stepping away from the day-to-day and discussing your aspirations for the year ahead?

Our planning workshops deliver many benefits, but perhaps the most compelling is they allow internal comms teams a rare moment of reflection. Our sessions include a SWOT analysis and a Start, Stop, Continue retrospective. This prompts an open, fun, informative discussion about what’s working well and what needs to change.

Research indicates this type of team reflection is excellent for shared learning, improved teamwork and problem-solving, and even greater job satisfaction.

Did you say ‘fun’? Surely, you’re not saying planning is enjoyable?

I am! Our planning sessions are designed to be inspiring and energising. They are a chance for teams to reset and get excited about what’s possible heading into a new year.

We also facilitate the session with care to ensure all voices are heard. Whether in-person or virtual, it’s important that everyone feels able to share their thoughts. Often, the quietest person has the best ideas.

We also like to show clients the ‘best of the best’ when it comes to our own work. Internal comms teams like to see how others are doing it. Again, the aim is to inspire and energise, and show what’s possible.

What preparation is needed for one of these sessions?

We like each member of the team to complete our IC Health Check before one of our planning workshops. This puts us on the front foot. We have advance warning of perceived comms strengths and weaknesses.

No further prep is needed. We always share the agenda beforehand and answer any initial questions the team may have. The most important preparation is coming with an open mind and in the mood to collaborate.

What’s the business value of these sessions and the tangible output?

This is my favourite question! These sessions must have real business impact; otherwise, why bother? Our consultants always collate and document the feedback from these sessions with great care. The report we produce is designed to be shared with each member of the internal comms team, other comms teams, senior stakeholders, and even new recruits.

The output is a blueprint for what the internal comms team seeks to achieve in the next 12 months. As such, it is an essential building block in creating that master plan many teams lack.

We started this conversation with a famous quote about planning. Do you have an all-time favourite?

The legendary composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein reputedly said: “To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.” In my experience, that’s very true!

To chat with Katie and AB’s senior team about a planning workshop or discuss your aspirations for the year ahead, book a 30-minute slot today