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Although there is some doubt as to whether Abraham Lincoln actually said this, the principle is absolutely correct and in keeping with his character – he was known for planning and being a very effective leader. Anyone attempting to chop down a tree with a blunt axe would not only find it taking a great deal longer (if it could be done at all) but result in massively wasted effort, too.

Tackling any task effectively needs proper planning and preparation.

Take some time to think through the task and determine what you need to accomplish it effectively and efficiently. What are the timeframes for completion? Do you have the tools, skills, people, financial resources, and so on? What is the expected return for completing the task, does it make sense in terms of your overall strategy, vision and mission and does it move you towards your BHAG or OMG?

Once you’ve established that the task, or project, will meet your goals and you’ve understood what you need for success, the next stage is planning for this success, recognising, of course, that plans need flexibility to cope with unforeseen ‘bumps’ along the way. As Dwight Eisenhower said, “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Once you start, be prepared to persevere through any obstacles that arise – stopping at the first sign of difficulty will simply be a waste of the energy already expended.

Resilience is, of course, a key success factor for leaders.

And, above all, bear in mind the need to keep moving your business forward. Don’t over-plan or hold back starting the project if some small things are not quite ‘ready enough.’ Show flexibility in your planning process and move ahead towards your goals.


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