In business and strategy we often talk about the “plan of record.” This is the documented and agreed upon plan against which we might measure results or track our progress. But plans, of record or otherwise, are subject to change. New information, market conditions, changing circumstances should cause us to adjust our plans. A Prussian Field Marshall, by the name of Melmuth Carl Bernard Graf von Moltke, is credited with the statement “No plan survives contact with the enemy,” and oft quoted phrase among those responsible for planning. His actual statement is translated more closely to “No plan of operations extends, with any certainty, beyond the first contact with the main hostile force.” It is the reference to certainty has me thinking.
But even as those plans are being evaluated and course corrections anticipated, it is important to remain clear in our communications. To never let certainty muddy our clarity.
Many writers, poets, and priests have expressed the desire for clarity, when they really wanted was certainty. That a certain course of action would bring them happiness or profit. Certainty about the gender of the unborn baby or the outcome on a battle field. Certainty is grounded in fact and can really only be found in the past (and even that, because of the nature of memory and perception, is unreliable at times). Clarity, however, is in the present.
In his book The Five Temptations of a CEO, author and consultant Patrick Lencioni talks about the importance in clarity even when certainty is elusive. Clarity is clearly communicating direction to the team in a way that removes ambiguity and keeps the organization moving forward. Clarity is clearly communicating with ourselves about what we are doing now, until things change and other decisions are made. In other words, the plan of record.
So, what is your plan of record? What are you driving for today? Focus on that and you will find yourself feeling more clarity and possibly creating more certainty as you gain results. Or you may find evidence that a change is required and you can find clarity in that as well.