Plan the Dive, Dive the Plan

The mantra of scuba divers describes one of the most important guidelines for conducting a safe and successful diving trip. In spite of the enjoyment that comes from observing the exotic reef life of some Caribbean island, every dive is potentially a life and death situation.  Therefore, it is extremely important to follow through with the pre-dive plan.

Before each dive, the dive master explains the topography of the dive, the depth, and the time limit. It is critical that everyone on the team understands and agrees upon the details of the plan.

Once under water, conducting detailed communication about changing the plan is difficult. It is each diver’s responsibility to follow the plan and stick with the group. It is important not to drift away from the dive team even if you see some interesting reef life.

Similarly, in the real world of business management, during the implementation phase of your strategic plan, people will want to diverge.  A compelling ripple in the tides of the business environment can very easyily knock you off course. It takes discipline to stay on track. The management team must make the commitment to stay focused on the agreed upon plan. They should only make significant changes to the plan after careful consideration as to overall implications and consequences of the change.

Typically, our available resources are fully consumed by two general activities:

  1. Maintaining ongoing business activities
  2. Working on our strategic initiatives

Taking on additional projects often means that something originally part of the plan will be deprived of critical resources

As with the scuba diving adventure, there will be time to review the plan and make adjustments.  Clearly, the time to do this is, however, is not while you are underwater.

In spite of the seriousness of every dive, once your colleagues buy-in, it is easy to stick to the plan. After all, you are having fun! This is not always the case when implementing a business plan. This part of the strategic management process involves a lot of hard work! Because of this, it is much more difficult to maintain energy and enthusiasm to carry on the implementation as planned. After completing the planning portion of the annual cycle, it is quite common for the team to be energized by their confidence in the plan and their new found sense of control over their destiny. The team begins the implementation effort brimming with optimism and eagerness. The planning effort itself is the interesting and intellectually stimulating part of the process. Then comes the real challenge: It’s time to go to work!  Actually committing the resources, making the time, uncovering and addressing obstacles is the biggest challenge to “diving the plan”.

Execute the Implementation Plan

In order to have the resources to support the implementation of your strategic objectives, a company must maintain the healthy operation of their existing business. In spite of these resource requirements, it is essential that you find some time to work on the implementation plans.

Having participated in the planning process, the managers on the team can use their understanding of your long-term strategies to make appropriate resource decisions everyday. This enables them to prioritize their fire fighting and, potentially, eliminate some “Urgent but Unimportant” activities. This can free up the resources needed for attacking strategic objectives. This is why, in spite of the time required to perform the actual planning, strategic management is a net time-saver.

Note:  This post is the third in a series of posts from Tom Ambler’s article Strategic Management: 3 Steps to the Cycle of Success originally posted in Compass Points.  The first post introduced the series.  Read it here.  The second post discussed planning and gave a sports analogy.  Read it here. The next post in this series will discuss the third step in more detail.  For a more complete understanding of strategic management, attend the Simplified Strategic Planning Seminar.

Author, Tom Ambler

Author, Tom Ambler

© Copyright 2018 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution.

Tom Ambler is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at

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