Philie Group Blog

Working the Plan and Fighting Fires — Know the Difference
By Mike Philie

Creating your strategic business plan doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a huge commitment of time and resources, with the expectations of achieving your key goals and objectives. It is an intentional effort. The plan is a result of countless discussions, what if’s, and lots of compromise. Most teams leave the planning session clear-eyed and focused on the opportunities that lay ahead. But here’s the catch: life tends to get in the way of the best of plans. Pandemics, supply chain issues, staffing challenges, inflation, and changes in how your customers want to buy from you can get in the way of working the playbook according to plan.

Working Your Plan Is Intentional

Working your plan is a focused effort that relies on execution, learning what works, making adjustments, and applying those lessons learned. These adjustments are not deviations from the plan, but merely modifying the tactics based on the environment you are in.

Fighting Fires Is Reactive 

The headwinds created in a transformative marketplace can easily blow a ship off its course. The best leaders are put to the test in these environments. The true test though is whether or not the goals in the business plan were seriously thought out, or perhaps just nice to have. If there isn’t enough buy-in for the plan, the team will revert to fighting daily fires as soon as things get difficult. Not passing judgment here, as some days the flames just need to be put out, no questions asked. This should be the exception not the rule.

Beware the Internal Arsonist

If it seems like every day is a fire fight, it may be prudent to look inward before blaming the external pressures of running a business. While this may not occur within your organization, we have seen instances where managers live to put out fires. They are very good at it, in fact they have made a career of it. Without admitting it, they can’t wait for the next one to occur so that they can save the day. By not getting to the root cause and providing a solution to the issue, they do in fact behave like the arsonist.

Execute, Modify, and Try Again

Communicate your plan. Make sure that people know why you’re doing what you’re doing, and how the stakeholders will benefit by going down this path. Sometimes knowing the “why” is more important than the “what” in order to get acceptance. Don’t overlook communication as you begin executing your plan. As you begin your journey, you will undoubtedly run into obstacles and impediments along the way. While you may be able to overcome some of these, others will require you to modify your approach in order to accomplish your objective. Learn what works and learn what doesn’t. Continual buildup of this knowledge base, will allow you to make better decisions on how to implement your strategy.

Think about what you do that is intentional and what is reactive, it’s going to be a balancing act for most businesses. You will have impediments, make sure that the internal ones are kept to a minimum. Finally, work with your team to execute, learn, modify and redeploy your efforts. Any thoughts on this? If you are already doing this, let us know how it’s going. If you want to get started down this path, let me know. Good luck.

Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic assessments, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at www.philiegroup.comLinkedIn or email at

Originally published in Printing Impressions


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