On the Road with Bill Yanek, ConnexFM CEO
Updated: Feb 10
Planning in a World That Won’t Stand Still
“No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy’s main strength.”
– Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke
This past summer, I read two books that profoundly impacted how I approached the waning days of the pandemic and early days of ConnexFM’s rebuild. First up was “Think Again” by Adam Grant. “Think Again” confronts societal challenges and problems such as political polarization, healthy and civil debate, and choosing a career path. The book delivers examples of how we could — or should — “think again” about how to solve issues. At its core, the book suggests that we approach such challenges with the mind of a scientist: Question everything, gather evidence and “think again” before coming to conclusions. This is certainly easier said than done.
“Think Again” led me to another book: “How to Change” by Katy Milkman. The book appeared on Adam Grant’s summer reading list — not surprisingly, both Grant and Milkman are Wharton School professors. There seems to be a lot of change in the air at the University of Pennsylvania. “How to Change” maps out strategies for how to increase personal productivity, defeat procrastination, improve forgetfulness and banish laziness. And Milkman cites science, data and studies to nudge, cajole, extort (in the case of commitment devices) and inspire us to make the changes we all desire.
During my summer of thinking and change, I came across a 2016 Graham Kenny article in the “Harvard Business Review” titled: “Strategic Plans Are Less Important than Strategic Planning.” The article expands upon famous quotes by Winston Churchill and U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Churchill said: “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential,” while Eisenhower noted that “plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” The article is a guide and warning to strategic planners (and association CEOs) that the process of planning matters the most, not necessarily how you accomplish organizational change.
For over a year, ConnexFM, like most organizations, experienced strategic and operational shocks not felt in years, if ever. Since 2020, ConnexFM took steps to become stronger while hunkering down to survive the pandemic and “thought again” about all we do — especially regarding our digital operations. ConnexFM changed what it offers (our event lineup), how it operates (hybrid virtual/physical) and who we serve (expanding our vertical markets). ConnexFM used empirical data in mapping our change via survey results, focus groups and digital analytics. But more important than how or what we changed, ConnexFM remained agile and on a path of evolution — a continual process of planning and evolving will survive at ConnexFM moving forward, no matter what the world throws our way next.