Hillary Clinton said following the Haiti Donor Summit in Montreal last week, "We're trying to do this in the correct order. Sometimes people have pledging conferences and pledge money and they don't have any idea what they're going to do with it. We actually think it's a novel idea to do the needs assessment first, and then the planning, and then the pledging."
The world leaders at the Summit have it right. Whether you’re a business, a non-profit or a government, it always makes sense toassess, then plan, then implement. This is hard to do in the face of disaster - when the first reaction is to do something, anything, to make things better. But we’ve seen the consequences of failing to assess and plan in incidents large and small throughout history. Take the case of US aid to India in the 50s and 60s – massive wheat donations disrupted the country’s agricultural market and ultimately bankrupted thousands of farmers. After the fact, many realized that the ‘charitable aid’ was responsible for millions of Indians starving.
Clinton’s ‘Assess, Plan, Implement’ mantra is a great lesson for businesses of all sizes too: no matter how urgent your situation seems, key decisions should still be carefully assessed. Proper planning that ensures that your efforts are actionable, scalable, and transparent can bring results that are transformative. Lack of planning can make a bad situation worse.