An information-processing model is outlined that predicts that performance on non-routine tasks can be impaired independently of performance on routine tasks. The model is related to views on frontal lobe functions, particularly those of Luria. Two methods of obtaining more rigorous tests of the model are discussed. One makes use of ideas from artificial intelligence to derive a task heavily loaded on planning abilities. A group of patients with left anterior lesions has a specific deficit on the task. Subsidiary investigations support the inference that this is a planning impairment.