The Key to Success is Preparation, Not Planning

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We often talk about the need for mission-critical “plans”: we launch business with a business plan, we initiate a strategy with a strategic plan.  Yet we’ve all heard that “the plan often isn’t worth more than the paper it’s printed on.” As the saying goes: no plan survives first contact with the enemy (Or the marketplace, when it comes to business.)

Why? A plan is the road map we believe we should follow.  It identifies the steps to take and requires us to implement it as presented. But when the first major thing goes wrong, people go into crisis mode. Everything goes into triage, and we lurch from one problem to the next using up people and resources.

Preparation includes planning, but is more. When a plan goes wrong, even with all the data supporting it, you’re faced with a dilemma – it doesn’t tell you how to decide what to do next. Going with your “gut instinct” is not a well-thought out plan.

Preparation recognizes that situations are fluid and includes information on how to decide what do next and walks you a plan, notes what can go wrong and offers scenarios.  It gives you guidelines to apply and lets you practice navigating within and between the scenarios.  This way you have experience to use when things go wrong. As Brent Gleeson, in TakingPoint, notes, we should be embracing “preparation”. 

We often hear that employees today, especially newer ones, want to be engaged in their work. That means they want to be empowered to make decisions when Plan A doesn’t work. Their on-boarding and training needs to include the opportunity for them to prepare for contingencies and expect to use these skills. This empowers them to make good decisions, no matter how volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUA) the situation is.

So take a look at your on-boarding and training programs. Are they giving people plans or preparing them to make decisions when things go wrong!