Which is more important for you - planning or execution?

21 Replies

I've been in a debate with a colleague about this subject lately and wanted to see how the BP community feels about it. So when you've found you're deal, which is the more fundamental - your plan or its execution?

@David T.   I think they both are important and both of them are vital to making the deal successful. Sometimes people who are over analytical like myself can get stuck in the planning phase and end up never executing.

If i had to choose I'd say the actual execution is more important than planning but I don't think I could have one without the other. 

It's like taking a test, yes studying is extremely important but if you don't execute it doesn't mean much.

Execution would be more important, but without planning and analysis you'll be a loose cannon.

@David T.  

My background in software process improvement if filled with ample case studies to say both are important.   However, execution, no matter how smooth and precise, is meaningless without solid planning.  

You could manufacture lead lifejackets with military precision and zero manufacturing defects, but they would still be a poor idea.

Updated almost 4 years ago

that opening line should read "...is filled with ..."

I think planning is key because all the execution in the world could lead to lots of bad deals.

Goals without execution are just dreams. Execution without a plan is just suicide. 

Chicken and the egg

That's like asking what's more important, the software or the hardware.  They are both halves of a whole.  There isn't a more important part since one actually doesn't exist without the other.

Joe Villeneuve

This answer will depend from individual to individual. Some people will be better at planning than execution and vice versa.

You will need to have a good balance between planning and execution.

You can have the best plans in the world, but if you don't execute on them, then they are worth nothing.

Or on the other hand, you can be great at taking action, but if you don't plan well and know your destination, then you can end up at a very undesirable place.

Honestly for me is the execution. I can plan to be a great landlord but unless I walk through all 14 pages of my lease with the tenants. Do my entire screening process  my plans don't matter. Just like I would say the best hard ware is impossible without software that at least functions! 

Many newbies have the best plans but execution terrifies them. Trust me I get it. That's why I am all about baby steps. If you keep trying you will eventually get the "process".

It depends on which you are worse at.  Just sayin'

Originally posted by @David T.:

I've been in a debate with a colleague about this subject lately and wanted to see how the BP community feels about it. So when you've found you're deal, which is the more fundamental - your plan or its execution?

 To me, this is like saying "Which is more important, mapping a route to your destination, or the act of driving there?" If you're deficient in either, you don't end up where you intended. 

Let's say you are great at executing a ****** plan. Congratulations, you're bankrupt.

Alternately, let's say you make the best plan ever, but don't do what is listed in the plan. Best case scenario you don't get started in the first place, worst case you are bankrupt. 

In the words of Forrest Gump, "[planning and execution] go together like peas and carrots".

Definitely a chicken/egg thing, but if I HAD to choose, I'd certainly say execution is more important...

Here's the reason:

Let's say there were a specific deal being approached.  if I were to create a plan around that deal and then hand it off to some random person to execute, there is X% chance the deal would be successful.  If someone were to create a plan around the same deal and hand it off to me to execute, there is a Y% chance the deal would be successful.

In my opinion Y > X.

Now, you could argue that this would be true if my execution were better than my planning, but I believe my planning is better than my execution and this is still true (in my opinion).

@J Scott To me planning & execution go hand in hand, too much of one makes the other suffer.  I think the struggle we all have to one degree or another is to find balance between the two.  I tend to get a partial plan then execute: Ready, Fire, Aim.  While, some go more the other way: Ready, Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim, Ready, Ready, Aim.... F... F..... fire.

The true balance would be to come up with a plan that any could execute.  Which, would be along the lines of systematizing a business & getting it to a point where it runs better without me than with me...  Which is my goal.

They are integral to each other. However the importance of each in a process varies based on the experience and knowledge of the process by the person performing the action(s), along with the complexity of the process. 

They both matter, but the importance of each varies by circumstances.

If I am told to paint a wall using color x, I don't need a lot of planning. If I were asked to build a new house, I better have some pretty elaborate planning. But if I told my son to paint a wall, I would make sure certain steps are understood.

Originally posted by @David T.:

I've been in a debate with a colleague about this subject lately and wanted to see how the BP community feels about it. So when you've found you're deal, which is the more fundamental - your plan or its execution?

David, I don't think there is a right or wrong answer as the experience of that person determines where they are. Planning should be done, in some deals, prior to "finding your deal" otherwise you don't know what you found, is it really a deal? I operate on auto pilot, after I decide to act, there is no planning about it.

If you are rehabbing, that's a bit different, overall plan should be known prior to contracting, things change that can change the original plan, so it's back to the drawing board.

In more complex transactions, there is planning during the negotiation and contracting phase, adjustments may be likely, you initial plan may have issues to execute.

That said, saying which is more fundamental, after the property has been identified, I'd say execution, the property should already meet your planned expectations. IMO :)

Thank you all for some very interesting posts, but maybe we're losing sight of the proposition. We're talking about property rehabs and flips, not building a software solution or a trip to Mars. Is investing in property as complicated as that? What does it take to put together a plan? what does it take to execute that plan? And which is more important? Is it fair to say that many people who come into the business don't really have a plan and are just trying to focus on the execution?

If you didn't have a plan, you wouldn't be looking at a property. Might not be a good plan, may not be too involved, but the fact that your are considering a property means there is a plan along with some belief. Obviously your plan is to invest in RE rather than pork bellies. At that point, you may have an idea as to how you see the property improved, if it's in your mind's eye, you're planning. When you walk in a consider tearing out a wall, you're planning, if you consider painting trim, you're planning.

Not many buy a place and stay detached, just call ole Bob and say, go over there and rehab that place, just make it nice and tell me when you're done. Even so, the plan is to have Bob do the planning.

In that sense, you can't execute anything without planning or having a thought process, if you get the urge, you'll plan to get to the bathroom before you get to the pot.

My point above was more to a business plan being carried out, you may not have a formal plan, you may just feel confident in acting and execute.

Why don't you comment as to your side of the fence on your debate, give a bit of a justification, you're probably right , then again, you won't be either. :)

While we all agree both are important, planning without execution is futile.  Execution without planning can save your butt.  So execution gets the edge.

@David T.  

I was not trying to imply that flipping or rehab and hold requires the detailed planning of a software product {though you would be surprised how many of those are fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants ventures).

The plan may be in your head, a drawing on the back of a napkin, or a spreadsheet on your computer, but there is a plan of some form.   I still think the planning is the weak point for most real estate investors ... and entrepreneurs in general ... they are often good at the 20,000 ft dream, but not at the 10' level of detail {I'll admit to being one of these ... I had to teach myself to stay tuned to the details}.   In real estate rehab, unless you are doing something novel (i.e. rehabbing with passivhaus components), you can probably can rely on conventional knowledge held by your trades for much of the detail.

Coming from an IT software and infrastructure background, I found the execution more difficult to manage than I initially envisioned for the size of the projects.  The biggest factor was that trades, in general, tend to be quasi accurate in their estimates, less punctual, less reliable, less professional and have themselves overbooked which resulted in more blockages in the project timeline.   There are exceptions, and you hang onto those people when you find them.  

A large factor initially was my lack of familiarity with the industry and my behavioural expectations of the workforce.  Overtime we have learned to schedule things to mitigate the potential for blockages to the critical path ... and we are still learning.

As @J Scott stressed the ability to execute is vital, but you still need a solid plan to execute.


I'm new to BP so a little late to this one. However I feel that BOTH are very important to the success of whatever it is you are doing. That's the obviouse part of the answer. However, BALANCE is going to be key.

My background is in IT/Programming so for me planning will always have to come before execution. If you don't plan (brainstorm, understand the end goal, understand the need, understand which tool to get you there, understand the audience, etc) you can end up with something that looks good, performs well, BUT not what was asked for, not needed and developed for the wrong audience, and MOST important, ends up being COSTLY.

Where the balance between planning and execution comes in will be that you can get mired in heavy details and never make it to execution. Or if you do, the execution ends up being late and you may be left behind all together as someone else who is quicker on the draw comes in and gets it done right out from under you. Therefore, you want to get to a point in your planning that will give you a foundation that will have the requirements needed for the execution. That which is missing can still be envisioned and accounted for, the targeted audience while may not have all of what they need and want, can see where it's going and can agree. Now since we are not and never will be in a perfect world case, changes will come, but the better you plan (notice I didn't say the more you plan), the better it will be to adjust the execution so that it does not kill your success.

It may all seem like an IT/Software analogy but the examples I've used to explain the points are not specific to programming. While I'm new to investing and admittedly not done my first deal yet. From all that I have gained so far and what I take as being the number 1 rule to investing is "You make your money when you buy" and the end part to it is "You collect it either at closing or when you sell". This tells me that there HAS to been some planning on our parts before the execution. That's why we run the numbers, know whether we want to hold or flip. Have a backup plan or some exit strategy in case things go wrong. Know where our markets are and who our audience will be. Know what the economy is doing, etc. Wouldn't you all say that if we don't, we end up in a situation that makes you kick yourself later. To me, thats planning before execution.

Well, this is all interesting. For those of you who say one is as important as the other, that's just fence sitting which is also risky because you can get splinters from doing that - and deservedly so! Fence sitting is also a risky business, don't you know? 

For those of you who say the plan is more important than execution, why have so many people come into the business (and still do) without any plan and still manage to be successful?

Without diminishing the importance of a good plan, it looks as if 'tis the execution that will ultimately win through on a deal?

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