And I quote: Dwight D. Eisenhower

Here’s a quote from Dwight D. Eisenhower that recently caught my attention:

“In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

I hope never to be involved in any way in an actual battle, but there are lots of experiences that I have had or will have that share characteristics with a battle, so I’m working to get as much sense out of this idea as I can. Let’s take it apart together.

Battles are generally unpredictable, which would explain why a plan might not stay relevant. So if we set the actual plan aside, what is it about planning that can be valuable?


Mamie and Dwight Eisenhower, 1916


I guess having thought through various scenarios gets you in the neighborhood of the relevant concepts and contingencies, so your reaction times might be shorter when in the thick of things.

Having done some planning might also provide you with confidence. Without planning, the mind might easily hare off in a panic, but if you’ve been at work on the problem, it would have a steadying influence, and would tend to help you reassure yourself.

We ought also to acknowledge that planning can sometimes be an effective diversion, a way of postponing actual doing. Let’s just go over this bit again, to make sure we’re clear on the details. And what about this other bit here? That’s going to take some sorting out, no question. We can’t go off half-cocked!

But returning to Eisenhower’s idea that planning is indispensable, what do you think? Setting aside an actual plan, what does the process of planning do to improve matters for you?

[Image: Wikimedia Commons]

6 thoughts on “And I quote: Dwight D. Eisenhower

  1. I love this quote Lori. My grandmother used to say: “If you don’t know what to do when wrestling with a big problem, just take the next step”. That step affects the next and so on. I’ve found it to be very true and helpful to keep me from worrying. I tend to plan, make lists, etc. in order to keep myself feeling more in control in a situation that seems overwhelming.

  2. Really good thoughts. I think your grandmother’s advice fits nicely with what I read about managing procrastination tendencies, etc.; doing one thing, however small, can keep the mechanism from icing up.

  3. Chiquito likes to quote “No plan survives contact with the enemy” (apparently from Prussian general Helmuth von Moltke), however I feel like Eisenhower’s is more proactive and empowering (rather than potentially just frustrating, even if it’s realistic).

  4. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal had this headline : “Details Aside, Warren Supporters Just Want Plans”. The article described an attitude that may be related to the Eisenhower quote. Some voters want a candidate who makes detailed plans which fit in a coherent vision. They may not be as concerned with the particulars. The article doesn’t mention it, but I would add that implementing a political agenda is often a chaotic and unpredictable business, maybe like fighting a battle.

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