Leadership Advantage: The four C’s of planning

Hardhat and construction plans (Photo: Chris Ryan/OJO Images/Getty Images)
Hardhat and construction plans (Photo: Chris Ryan/OJO Images/Getty Images)
Ben Gandy
Ben Gandy

Planning is a key responsibility of management and leadership. This isn’t news to anyone, it’s part of the job. But there is little said about how to actually be good at planning. If it’s important, we need guidelines.

First of all, there are different types of planning: strategic and tactical.

Strategic planning involves working backward from long-term, holistic targets to break down and ultimately identify action items needed to achieve the target. Most organizations begin their strategic planning processes by developing a long-term vision. The more specific, the better. Then, they seek to understand the opportunities, strengths, needs and headwinds they’ll face.

Understanding these things isn’t always easy or obvious. It takes some time and thought, but once identified, you can discuss the resources, initiatives, skills and tools it will take to achieve the vision.

The process should end with specific tasks, programs and initiatives assigned to individuals, with deliverables and due dates.

Tactical planning involves defining actions and “how to’s” to execute on short-term, immediate missions, such as delivering on your spring service. Knowing and understanding the building blocks of thorough tactical planning is critical. Omitting one of these essential elements will undo our results.

Start with scope, always. Often, assumptions made about the scope by field staff, management and clients may all be different. In this case, clarity matters.

Next, order the optimal sequence of activities. Getting activities out of sequence will torpedo your efficiencies. Then consider the elements of time, i.e., calendar windows, schedule, labor hours and tasks times. Equipment and materials must also be included. The right type, size and number of equipment units is important.

And finally, people must be integrated into your tactical plan. What are the right numbers, skills sets and leaders needed to bring it all together?

Both types of planning should also include the four C’s: Collaborate, Communicate, Course correct and Celebrate.


Sitting in your office alone and working through a plan feels productive, however, business is a team sport. You will likely develop a far more comprehensive plan when you sit in the conference room and work through the process with your team instead. Additionally, there’s no better way to get buy-in and agreement than to include the team at the front end.


This might mean that the leadership group rolls out the annual strategic plan to the middle management group. Or the operation managers debrief the field staff on the spring services plan. In either case, the plan has a much better chance of being executed if all parties are communicated with upfront.

Without communication, your people may end up working against you simply because they don’t know what your plans are.

Course Correct

Embed checkpoints, waypoints or updates as part of your initial planning process. As we roll forward in time through our operations, the unknown will inevitably surface. We’ll need to reset the course on almost any project, initiative or strategy. The question is not whether we’ll need to course correct, but how much and in which direction.


Celebrate milestones, waypoints and benchmarks by embedding them into your planning process. Celebrations provide clarity on what winning looks like, generate some enthusiasm and keep the team engaged. Celebrate quarter by quarter, or at appropriate points. People may lose focus or management if we always wait until the end of the game.

Strong planning processes, both strategic and tactical, along with the four C’s will diminish the chaos, strengthen your leadership and set up the win.

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