How You Know You’ve Made a Bad Plan

There’s nothing I love more than a good maxim from an ancient writer. Today’s comes from the writings of Publilius Syrus:

“It’s a bad plan that can’t be changed.”

Well said, Publilius. Let’s address the issue of changing a plan from two sides.

In the first place, every business and every business plan should have contingency plans. It is of the essence. You shouldn’t even consider a contingency plan to be as much a contingency as part of the plan. “If X happens, we will then proceed down road Y.” This is incredibly important and oft ignored by many business people.

On the flip side and despite the need for a contingency plan, it is important not to waffle between plans, especially during a crisis. When a business is going through a crisis, it’s important for the CEO or leader to pick a particular plan or direction and stick with it. Nothing breeds a lack of confidence in staff like plan hopping. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a contingency plan, but it does mean that you need to go down road Y only when X happens and not just willy nilly.

As Publilius said, if you can’t change your plan, it’s a bad one. In that case, it’s not a plan. It’s a tunnel out of which you can’t see the other side. Even if you don’t emerge from a tunnel the way you expect, you need to know that you’ve created some way to get out. That’s what a contingency plan is.

How do you create your plans? Do you always build in a contingency plan? Why or why not?

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