Posted by Matt Little on 16th Feb 2022

“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” - Dwight D. Eisenhower

Planning. The USPSA competitor running through his stage plan in his head until when it’s time to perform he just runs his mental movie in real time and dominates his competition. The Special Forces A-team running through every conceivable contingency in their operations order and doing rehearsals before boarding the birds to infil on a capture-kill of a HVT. The SWAT team planning a high-risk search and arrest warrant for a violent armed criminal. The civilian planning and setting up protocols for his loved ones in the case he has to defend them from violence.

All of these are planning. And all of these plans have commonalities, but the hard truth of all of them is that the fight will be what it will be regardless of your plan, and the enemy gets a vote in how that unfolds. As Clausewitz famously tells us, no plan survives the first contact with the enemy.

So why are plans essential? Why is planning so heavily emphasized by professional warriors worldwide and throughout history? Well thought out and executed plans position us for success, even if we have to deviate from them because of circumstance or enemy action. John Steinbeck once said “If you find yourself in a fair fight, your tactics suck.” Planning is how we set the unfair fight up in our favor.

Plan well, with contingencies in place. But understand the reality of conflict, and realize that your plan is a starting point. It’s a framework to build and improvise off of, like a jazz musician playing variations off of a standard melody. Just like technique, your plan must be alive and flexible, not rigid and lifeless. The only way to truly learn this is through experience, so seek out opportunities in your training to gather that experience before you need it in conflict.