Incremental planning

Lincoln famously said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” The whole idea of properly planning and preparing isn’t a new concept.

We all try and do it so that we give our work the best possible opportunity to succeed. But planning isn’t easy and we can’t always plan for every action needed or outcome expected. Still, planning is a necessary component to successful execution.

The challenge is that we try and plan for certainty in an uncertain world. By the time we develop our glorious plans, customers have changed their minds and we’re scrambling to shift. Then we have this whole ‘incremental’ thing, which is a great approach to address constant change and validate learning as quickly as possible, but sometimes doing something ‘incrementally’ can be an approach we take because we don’t really know or even understand where we’re headed.

Where does that leave us? Is incremental planning the answer? Perhaps there is some truth in it but more importantly, we need to avoid the trap of dropping bits and pieces of information that aren’t cohesive or even coherent. Instead, to Lincoln’s point, investing the time to think it over, think it through and sharpen our mindset and approach can shave not only time but waste.


In some ways, today’s plans seem to live on Post-its rather than paper.