Henry Singleton on Strategic Planning — Stay Flexible

Henry Singleton

Henry Singleton has the best operating and capital deployment record in American business . .  . if one took the 100 top business school graduates and made a composite of their triumphs, their record would not be as good as Singleton’s. —Warren Buffett, 1980

Henry Singleton eschewed detailed strategic plans, preferring to remain flexible.

“I know a lot of people have very strong and definite plans that they’ve worked out on all kinds of things, but we’re subject to a tremendous number of outside influences and the vast majority of them cannot be predicted. So my idea is to stay flexible.”

In a rare interview with a BusinessWeek reporter, he explained himself more simply:

My only plan is to keep coming to work. … I like to steer the boat each day rather than plan ahead way into the future.

Henry Singleton as quoted in The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success

Still curious? If you want to learn more about Singleton read the excellent Distant Force: A Memoir of the Teledyne Corporation and the Man Who Created It. You can learn more about strategy here.