In simplest terms, planning is to find implementable ways to get what you want, when you want it, with the resources you have available for the purpose. Everything else about planning is just stuff.
Planning comes in three parts.
1) Strategic – answers to all the “W” questions. Who, what, where, when and maybe why. perhaps several instances of each. What should always include, “What do I have to get the answers with?”
2) Tactical – all the “How” questions. The limit here is that not all tactics are necessarily possible for a particular person in a particular time and place.
3) Logistical – is the to-do list that implements the chosen tactics.
Planning is the management of the interface between tactics and strategy.
Strategy includes everything that you might want to achieve. Usually a small part of everything possible. Tactics are the methods you use to achieve goals. Some may not be available for a particular person. Planning occurs in the space where they overlap. The list of things you want matched to techniques you could use to get them.
Effectiveness is in choosing goals wisely. Efficiency is found in the careful matching of tool to purpose.
Competent planners should do five things:
If a client has strategy with no tactic, they have a dream. On the other hand, if they have a tactic with no strategy, they have a good solution to no known problem.
Logistics is the killer. It is detailed and important and requires specialized skill. Many planners find it boring. Improperly done, the best tactical method attached to the ideal strategic purpose will fail. Find people who do this for a living. Lawyers, accountants, investment advisers, and some others. It is like deciding who should fly the airplane. Pick someone who knows how. A perfect aircraft with a perfect flight plan ends badly with an incompetent pilot. Do-it-yourself is probably stupid.
Planning and especially financial planning, is like other problem solving methods. Spend the most time understanding the questions and the remainder finding and implementing the answer.
Good tactics improperly applied are a waste of time and other resources. You do not begin with the answer (tactics) and then look for questions (strategy)
This is not Jeopardy!
Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario. firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow on Twitter @DonShaughnessy