Tension is a wonderful thing. We often don’t see it that way. We mistakenly wish we could eliminate tension. That would not be good. There are some tensions that will always exist and the outcomes of that tension are a good thing.

If you decided to continue reading, it’s probably out of curiosity – because you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about. Here are a few examples of healthy tensions leaders should manage:

Cost control vs. sales building.

New growth vs. reinvestment in existing assets.

Current operations vs. research for the future.

Existing products vs. research and development for future products.

If you work in a church, outreach and discipleship create an ongoing tension.

In our personal lives, we must manage the tension between today’s expenses and how much we’ll save for retirement.

And, there’s always the classic tension between management and leadership.

We shouldn’t work to eliminate any of these tensions; we should work to manage them.

Today, I’ll respond to one of these based on a question I received from a leader – How do you create a culture in which planning is valued and done well and still seize unexpected opportunities?

The “we need a plan” vs. “let’s see what happens” conundrum is very real. It is at the heart of two different personalities and worldviews. However, that doesn’t mean the two can’t co-exist. I maintain, in the best organizations, they always do.

Here are a few ideas to manage the tension:

Have a plan – It’s hard to create a culture that honors planning without a plan. And, be sure to allocate enough time and energy to do planning well. I’ve written a few posts about that previously if you’re interested.

Hold the plan loosely – This is an issue of mindset. Don’t think of your plan as the Ten Commandments. At the end of the day, planning is a tool not a mandate. If circumstances change, or opportunities present themselves, be flexible.

When the plan needs to change, change it – Changing the plan is different than abandoning the plan. When you decide to move on an opportunity, decide what you’ll not do in your plan and actually change the plan.

Create margin in your plan – I’ve long believed the best plans allow some margin – margin in both time and money. If your plan allocates 100% of your time and 100% of your dollars, you are destined for changes and perhaps unneeded frustration. If you build a plan with even 10% margin, you will have space for unexpected opportunity built in.

The best leaders know, life happens and we need to be nimble and responsive. They also know, organizations with well-conceived plans accomplish more than those that don’t plan.

Plan and seize unexpected opportunities; you’ll find this to be a classic example of what Jim Collins calls, “The genius of the AND.” Your organization will be stronger if you can learn to do BOTH.[GLS_Shield]

Author: Mark Miller

Mark is a business leader, author, communicator, photographer, husband, and father. He spends his time helping leaders grow.