Monday, September 13, 2021

Plans are worthless, but planning is everything

I always, always plan my rehearsals and workshops in great detail, including the warm ups.

But invariably the unexpected happens and my plan goes out the window! Nevertheless, here’s why planning is still vital.

U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a speech in 1957, during which he said:

“I heard [a statement] long ago in the Army: Plans are worthless, but planning is everything *.”

By definition, a plan is for something that hasn’t happened yet. Since it hasn’t happened, there is no way of knowing exactly what the situation will be.

You plan for a rehearsal or singing workshop by making assumptions: how many people will be there, how they will react to your instructions, what material you will be covering, the speed at which singers will get through the material, the acoustics of the space, whether the electricity will work, and so on.

But when the rehearsal takes place, you will find that some of those assumptions are wrong. You will have to adapt your plan on the fly and fall back on the skills you’ve developed over the years.

If your assumptions and expectations are often wrong, you might start to think “What’s the point of planning at all?”

If you don’t bother to plan and try to wing it (based on your years of experience), you might just about get away with it, but you’ll probably find that things don’t go smoothly and you don’t get as much done as you’d hoped. You will also probably find your mind going blank at various points.

The process of planning brings to mind all the important elements that you will need to run your rehearsal. Your thought processes will range over a huge amount of useful stuff, picking out the relevant bits here and there. That process – rather than the particular plan itself – is what helps you to run a successful rehearsal.

When I used to teach theatre (which is far less structured than a singing rehearsal), I often abandoned lesson plans completely. But the act of making the plan meant that I could comfortably improvise and respond successfully to the group in the moment. The lessons always worked out well, even though not necessarily as I had expected.

I did try once not making a plan at all, and the result was a disaster.

The takeaway is this:

you always need to plan, but you’ll rarely find yourself sticking to it

Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.


* for more information on Eisenhower’s quote read this article.


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Chris Rowbury




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