Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column > We have a plan! OK, but is that all you’ve got?

We have a plan! OK, but is that all you’ve got?

“I thought you were right handed”. My friend had just watched me latch a gate, close a hasp and lock a padlock with my left hand as we locked up the shed and retired out of the rain. Our planned day working in the garden was being curtailed by one of the squalls sweeping across Wiltshire and thus demonstrating the first of my topics here; we knew that the weather was unreliable and had a back-up plan.

I have used the old military quote about no strategy surviving first contact with the enemy before and it is very true. You can plan all you like, but there will always be something that doesn’t quite work as you expected, or doesn’t work at all. Having good tactical plans to support your strategy is a vital part of any planning because you will need them.

Someone once looked at a project plan that I had drafted and told me that building in contingency was planning for failures, but it isn’t; it is realistic planning. The speaker also criticised me for personally testing a new piece of equipment to prove to my workforce that it could work at the claimed rate of output. He later caused carnage on one of our motorways, fortunately with no damage to property or person, but the root cause seemed to be that he had relied on spreadsheet modelled data rather than checking what was physically possible.

Having a contingency plan takes us back to the remark about whether I am right or left handed. Instinctively I am right handed, but 40 odd years ago I sprained my right hand. It was out of action for about 3 weeks and I had to learn to do a lot of things for myself with my left hand. I wasn’t easy; even trying to operate an electric razor was a nightmare and as for writing. Fortunately in those days of early computerisation back in the 70s most of my writing at work was filling in little boxes on forms and using numbers and capitals got me through. The first few days were a nightmare, but it got easier and, whilst I didn’t perfect it, I got by.

Since then I have tried to do a lot of things with either hand and it is a great boon for DIY if nothing else. All those awkward spots where you can’t get your right hand in; just swap. These days, although I still can’t write well left handed, I am reasonably ambidextrous and it is a contingency plan that has served me well during another couple of incidents that have again put my right hand out of action for a while.

When you plan you need more than just the plan or you will soon find yourself having to stop an re-think things, but having an alternative, or two, lined up makes it possibly to seamlessly switch to the back-up and so it reduces the risk of slippage so you have a double benefit.



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