Planning: a quest for the divine truth in any given situation, or a compelling construction of rhetoric designed to convey a desired perspective or point of view?
I was speaking recently with a fellow planner, who claimed that the act of planning is not about the regurgitating of facts, but (in fact) the art of constructing an argument so compelling, that everyone buys into it immediately.
The courtroom analogy was an apt one: it doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong; the person that ultimately succeeds is the individual who can construct the most compelling and believable story based upon the evidence supplied.
And the more I think about it, the more of an apt analogy this actually is.
The supply of evidence varies wildly from project to project. I have worked on accounts where clients have supplied a veritable raft of insight, reports and information, facilitating the construction of a case that could, indeed, be built over many years. Conversely, I have also been asked to prepare a prosecution where the witness statements, evidence and facts have been nominal.
I’m familiar with both types of scenario, and have experienced differing levels of success in instances of either. But, especially when pitching, the real successes have indeed come when the insight and strategy has been an assessment of the situation, a validation of the facts, but most importantly, the creation of an argument and a consistent thread of rhetoric so compelling, that you’ve won the jury over at the very onset of the trial.
Planning is so much more than the reiteration of (often known) facts: it’s the creation of a convincing (albeit validated) argument that brings the audience into your way of thinking to achieve the desired verdict.
Planners should spend less time working on strategies that merely recite known truths and instead invest their efforts into creating compelling arguments that ensure the creative, projects and pitches are won over in the courtroom from the very outset.
(P.S. The above image is Tony Shalhoub, playing hotshot lawyer Freddy Riedenschneider in the Coen Brothers’ superb ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There’ – a highly recommended film.)