ImageThis week I’ve been thinking a lot about planning. By nature, my preferred style is to “wing it” in meeting, workshop and other situations. I’ve found that I’m much more natural, comfortable and confident when I’m operating that way.

However, the ability to “wing it” in a certain situation does actually involve a level of preparation! To start with, I need a pretty good base understanding of the content and context of the area concerned; knowledge against which some key decisions and actions can then be taken in short order where required.

This means that, when I’m new to an environment or subject matter or both, I tend to rely much more strongly on advance planning. I make quite detailed notes and agendas, which inevitably get largely ignored as I start to get immersed in meetings and I begin to revert to type! But there’s something enormously reassuring about having them there to turn to should the need arise. Kind of like a grown up comfort blanket!

I also think that the process of producing that comfort blanket in agenda form is in many ways more important than its use itself, as the thinking that goes into it and talking it through with colleagues etc. to ensure it’s not wide of the mark helps to stimulate your thinking and understanding of the subject matter.

I don’t want to give the impression, however, that I “don’t do planning”! It’s crucial to have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve, how, when by, and who will do what, and planning ahead helps prevent you running up against last minute issues.

For me, though, a certain level of flexibility is imperative to allow me to respond to those last minute issues that avoid the safety net of the planning process!

So what about you? What level of planning works for you? Are you a list maker with every second of the day planned out to the nearest minute with military precision? Or a “fly by the seat of your pants” type, free and flexible to respond to matters as instinct takes you?