In general there are two forms of planning: deliberate and rapid. Deliberate planning is a methodical and detailed process most appropriate when looking beyond the horizon. Think traditional STRAP, AOP, or business planning processes – and yes, it can involve hours of yawns and head-bobs as you fight to keep your eyes open during tedious meetings.

Rapid planning is a likewise methodical process, but sacrifices detail for speed. It’s the process to rely on when a beehive falls on your lap and you struggle to find a way to make honey while scrambling for your epipen.

The good news is the core process is the same for each type of planning, and can start with the same two questions:




Or, for those unfamiliar with Iron Butterfly and the translation of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida: what are the things you must do and what are the things you must not do?

Whether looking miles down the road or 10 feet out, knowing your constraints (things you have to do) and restraints (things you must not do) will help keep your decision-making focused on desired outcomes. Consider a few throat swelling scenarios below:

You are facing an economic downturn. Will you set a constraint that you’ll retain all your employees and a restraint that no more than $X will be spent, freeing your team to come up with hard solutions while confident in your commitment to them and their families?

You are launching a new product or service. Will you set a constraint that all potential new clients will be approved by you before your sales team reaches out to them and a restraint that existing clients will be engaged at will, allowing your team members to take initiative and strengthen your base while allowing you to control growth?

You are in the midst of damage control. Will you set a constraint that all media queries must be forwarded to your communication team so it can respond within 60 minutes and a restraint that no employee will share information not approved for public release outside the organization, ensuring accuracy, timeliness, and unity of voice while at the same time taking advantage of delegation of voice?

Whether crafting a long-term strategy or mitigating a potential crisis, creating a concise list of what must and cannot be done – establishing clear planning constraints and restraints – will provide guidance that allows you to tap into the creativity, skills, experience, and expertise of your entire team while ensuring your team members work within available resources and preserve the values of your organization.

Odds are you’ve been through some tough situations in your business. How do you plan in damage control mode? What are some examples of constraints and restraints you’ve applied in various situations? Do you have questions about how to create and refine your own goals, constraints, or restraints? I encourage you to share your thoughts in the discussion board below.

Let’s talk!

Cliff W. Gilmore

Cliff W. Gilmore

CEO at North of Center, LLC
Cliff holds a PhD in organization and management with a specialization in leadership. A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, he completed operational deployments to Fallujah, Iraq and Kandahar and Helmand, Afghanistan. He has led multi-national and inter-agency teams including approximately one year on loan from the Corps as Director of Policy, Planning, and Outreach for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs. He also directly advised the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on public and media engagement regarding national security matters for two years as Special Assistant for Public Communication. Today he puts that experience to work helping people become the kind of leaders they would want to follow.
Cliff W. Gilmore
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