Plan To Fail

My boss told me once “You’ve been lucky so far, but, it will not work always. You should have a Plan B as a backup if Plan A fails”

This was about a decade ago. I was a young guy managing a team of 20 technicians and we had some teething issues with the project. I had to come up with strategies to make sure that the team was upskilled and enabled to meet the targets laid out by the client.

In the weekly meetings, the team managers would identify performance issues of their respective teams and propose strategies to mitigate those challenges. Usually, they would have a Plan A and a Plan B. The way I looked at it, if Plan A doesn’t work, having any number of plans after that is not going to to fix the situation.

My reason for this strong belief stemmed from the fact that any Plan B that was created without knowing the reason for the failure of Plan A is likely to make the situation worse than improve. I was never a fan of entering the fire-fighting situation. Fire is unpredictable and the only way to contain it is to cease the supply of fuel. Plan B, essentially, to me, seemed like pouring fuel over a fire.

Maybe it was my upbringing that had this effect on me. My father was a cop and my bedtime stories mostly consisted of Cops, Crime and Criminals – not always in the same order. One thing that I learned from these stories was that you need to be certain of the outcome of your actions and if there is a deviation you should have an exit plan to come out of the situation.

A typical planning of a raid is like this:

  1. Get all the details of the premises you will be raiding, even minute details like do you need to push or pull to open the door.
  2. Have a clear path to reach and acquire the target. All team members of the squad should be aligned to it.
  3. There is only one person in charge and everyone follows the command.
  4. In case, upon entering the premises, you realize the plan will not work, have a clearly defined exit plan.
  5. Go home to your family – alive.

In the corporate world, when you are handling a situation the same applies. You should be sure beyond any doubt about the outcome of your actions. This is possible only if you have studied the situation comprehensively and identified every parameter. You need to know how every parameter interacts with others and the consequences of changes made to them.

You develop a plan based on all the information you have access to and validate it against possible combinations to assess the outcome. There will always be some unknown and you need to rely on your experience and quick thinking to make minor changes on the fly to tune your plan of action.

When you implement the plan and realize that it is not going on the right track, you need to have an exit strategy to roll back the plan without causing any or least aggravation to the existing situation.

Next step is to get back to the drawing board and analyze the reason for failure, gain from the learning and come up with a better plan. This way you will have a better rate of success, less of fire-fighting and loss of resources in your team/organization.

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Author: Sundar Thirugnanam

An IT Laborer by the day and a cynically optimistic guy trying to break free from the matrix during after hours. I write, I shoot and I ramble over here. Cheers.

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