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Rekon Group Golden Rules of Planning

26 May, 2017

Planning: Rekon Group Golden Rules of Planning.

Click here to watch the you tube animation of Golden Rules of Planning.

Now let’s talk about the Rekon Group Golden Rules of planning.  I distinctly remember the day I heard the rules for the first time and more importantly the day I truly understood them.  It was 2006 and I had just returned from my first tour in Afghanistan where I commanded a Troop of approximately 30 soldiers.  A month after returning to Australia I was sent on an 8-week planning course in a place called Puckapunyal.


It was on this course that I would meet the American Colonel who fundamentally changed how I think about planning and also how I live my life.  A truly inspirational person.


To set the scene: it was the first day of the course comprising of about 50 students (all officers) seated in the theatre.  At some point the Colonel got up to speak. He got up and said:


“Hey guys in a minute I am going to tell you the three Golden Rules of planning. When I tell you these rules they will make sense to you and you will probably think you understand them, BUT when you truly understand them, when you GET IT, I will see it in your eyes and I will know!  And it will change how you think about planning for the rest of your life. Ok here they are:


  1. The first rule is: plan to the lowest level that you can then go down one more,
  2. The second rule is: fight the enemies’ reaction to your action not their start state, and
  3. The third rule is: the planning is more important than the plan. 


Now I can see you all sitting there thinking ‘Yeah, I understand’; BUT when you GET IT I will see it in your eyes and I will know.”

Now I admit my reaction to this was: this guy must be used to working with people who weren’t very sharp because I believed I already understood the rules.  In fact, I thought they were pretty self-explanatory and quite frankly there wasn’t much to ‘GET’.

Anyway, the course progressed and one morning I found myself with the Colonel as my instructor driving to a small town outside of Puckapunyal to do a planning activity.  Our mission for that activity was to determine how a small force should defend the town against a larger invading enemy force.  Now this is normally a pretty simple task which just required showing indicative areas (using a circle on a map) where you place groups of soldiers.  I was starting to identify these areas when the Colonel came up to me and said “Hey Peter what I want you to do is plan down to the individual level; I want you to identify where you would put individual soldiers on the map.”

Now this is not normal. I remember thinking at the time it was an absolutely ridiculous task – in fact it was a complete waste of time.  So, I did what all good Australian soldiers do, I made a token effort to placate the Colonel and just got on with writing the plan the way I thought I should.  About an hour later the Colonel returned to check up on me and saw my token effort for what it was and said: “Hey Peter, you didn’t do what I asked.  I told you to plan to the soldier level and you haven’t.  This is important! Do it properly.”  Now I was just annoyed. But, I didn’t want to fail the course and I had to play by his rules, so I started placing individuals on the map.  And as I got into it a strange thing happened.  I started to think about where individuals would be on the ground and realised my original assessment didn’t reflect how the soldiers would actually behave.  And the more I progressed the more I realised how wrong my original assessment was. Then I started to do the same for the enemy!! And it was about this time I GOT IT.  And it was like I had been struck by lightning.

Now at this point the Colonel was about 150m away walking across a paddock.  He immediately recognised what was happening and he yelled at me across the paddock: “Hey Peter, you just got it didn’t you?” I indicated I had.

Anyway, we spent the next couple of hours talking about the implications of GETTING IT.  He reassured me that I wasn’t ignorant or incompetent by not truly understanding the rules beforehand, in fact you need a degree of experience before you can understand the nuances of the rules.  But it was a pivotal moment in my career, and it fundamentally changed how I plan.

So what do the three Golden Rules actually mean:

Well the first rule: plan to the lowest level you can then go down one more is all about understanding how the system behaves as best you can within the time constraints you have.  In a business context, this is not just identifying at a high level about who your customers, your competitors, your suppliers, or your employees are.  It is about analysing them to the lowest level of detail you can, it is about really understanding how the people and/or system will behaves to as granular a level as you can.

The second rule: fight the enemies reaction to your action not their start state is all about recognising that the competition will never just sit back and let you execute your plan without responding. Therefore, every plan must pre-empt what may happen not one but two, three, or even four steps ahead (if you can) and build flexibility into the plan for different contingencies.  Systems are dynamic and whenever you intervene in a system it will change – so plan and prepare for it.

And finally, the third and most important rule: the planning is more important than the plan is all about recognising the plan only gets you to the start line and once you execute the plan almost immediately things will change.  But by virtue of the fact you have gone through a collaborative planning process means everyone starts with the same mental model; so when you do need to pivot or change the plan it can be done quickly and with minimal friction.  It is also about recognising you never end up where you thought you would and that planning is a continuous process and not a one-off event.

If you would like to better understand the Rekon Group Golden Rules of Planning, and would like to understand how to plan using the DECIDE together™ planning process, see our training page for information on our Training Courses.