Do you plan, or “wing it”?

I’ve had the opportunity to review several Eagle Scout leadership service projects over the years. Just as each Scout is different, so is their level of preparation for their projects. Some have mapped out their projects down to every screw and nail, while others give a more general description of what is being proposed or what was actually done.

I was confronted with the same sort of thing when we were embarking on a family vacation recently. My son likes to plan every aspect of the trip, down to what, where and when, and make all the arrangements. My wife, on the other hand, likes to be more spontaneous and not cling to a fixed plan – rather, intending to decide what to do on the spur of the moment.

There are pros and cons to each sort of approach. Having a fixed plan lets you sort out all the eventualities and have more control over how a project or activity unfolds. You can make commitments for the time and materials you need, control costs and schedule, and be reasonably certain that things will turn out as you had envisioned.

Flying by the seat of the pants is another story. Less is certain at the outset, but having a general idea of what the outcome looks like allows you the flexibility to approach the project from a number of angles. Being prepared for “just any old thing” lets you do what might be the right direction at any point in the timeline, and could give you more options in case unexpected difficulties arise.

The best approach is probably somewhere in between. Having a road map that shows the way from start to finish is good, but if the road is closed or a detour is needed, you should have the flexibility to make changes as you go along. This is actually one of the aspects of the Eagle project review process. Recognizing that changes are almost always inevitable, the question of what changes did you have to make? is one of the reflections on the completed project.

The process of planning and conducting a service project gives the Scout valuable experience that will serve him well in higher education and in life. Being able to make a plan, but remain flexible enough to shepherd changes as they are needed, puts the Scout a step ahead of his peers – even those who have done class or club projects.

We can learn from our Scouts’ experience as well, observing how they adapt and change, and apply that flexibility into our own planning, whether it’s for a vacation, a church event or a project at work. Being prepared, however, is key, for without preparation, you can be left vulnerable to the impact that unexpected circumstances can have on the course of the project.

Next time you embark on an undertaking, decide which path you’re going to take, but be flexible enough to do what’s needed.

Image by Stuart Miles /

This post first appeared on Bobwhite Blather.
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