If Plan A doesn’t work, there are 25 other letters. Really.

Transcript, slightly edited.

I’m Elijah Lim. The poster that you saw at the beginning of this video is pretty typical of posters that have been going around for the longest time and which say things like if Plan A fails don’t worry there are 25 other letters in the alphabet and of course the poster that you saw is a variation that was done by someone else to say that very often we don’t get a second chance but more importantly if Plan A fails what do you have to learn what you got to take away from it. All very sound, all very valid points of view. Valid arguments right, but I just want to examine a little bit more on what actually is a plan. You know George Patton of Second World War Fame is famous for saying this and that is a good plan vigorously executed right now is better than a perfect plan next week but he’s also the same guy who said that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy so what does that mean right, why do we need to plan. And when you sit down and think about it a plan is actually an expression of a course of action that you think you should take if towards an end goal. You have a goal, you have an objective in mind you want to achieve something and you put a plan together to outline what steps you need to take in order to achieve that particular goal. Now a plan has got many components, many purposes. Of course one of the main things is to list out what resources you have, what could come against your plan, what could ruin your access to those resources. You need to find out who your people are, how are they going to be involved, what are their strengths, their weaknesses, where you’re going to put them, how you’re going to organize them right, you need to decide. Coordination. What is the sequence of events? Does anything have to come first, what’s gonna come second, do you need to take note of things that are happening on the periphery which may affect step 7, for example. All these are the components of a plan.

So now let’s assume that you already have an end goal in mind. You have an objective, there’s something you want to achieve, there’s some things you want to get done right? A lot of us are caught in this thing about what’s the plan and and we forget that a plan is simply a plan. It is a blueprint. It is what goes on in your mind it is steps of action, how are you gonna get there. And people say there are good plans there are bad plans you know. If plan a doesn’t work go for Plan B and that sort of thing. I would encourage us to lift our thinking a little bit higher and that is we are planning all the time but we have to plan at a very high level and then we need to have sub plans that are going to support the main plan right. Too many of us are too focused on what the sub plan is. So it’s actually not plan A, it is a plan A1-3 for example, which you are having and it’s not really your plan A or B or whatever. The broad overall plans that we have are actually the most important because they will decide what your sub plans are going to look like. For example if I have a broad plan that I want to do a certain business and bring it overseas regionally, whatever, I need to have sub plan.

Now you can have any number of sub plans right and all of your sub plans have to of course be coordinated and therefore you can have other people planning the sub plans for you but you have to know what’s going on and you have to ensure that they are all meshed together, they’re integrated, they are coordinated. Those are sub plans and too many of us focus on sub plans far too often, far too much, actually, but what we really should be looking at are the strategies and it doesn’t matter if you’re an MNC, a small business or even an individual. You need a strategy. In one of my previous posts this guy Mark Chussil was discussing why good planners, good strategists, actually come up with bad strategies. And one of the important things is belief. Depending on what you believe, whether you can or whether you can’t as Henry Ford said, or somebody, I can’t remember, you will you will be right and therefore if you believe you can you will structure your plans, you will have a  strategy that works towards the achievement of those goals but if you believe that you can’t the tendency is that you’re gonna build safeguards in. You’re gonna cater to the what if this and what if that and when you do that what happens is you divert resources which could have been used to support your actual main plan, your main strategy, right. As it is said, right, in the Art of War, if you defend everywhere you will be weak everywhere and therefore in order for us to have good plans and good strategies we really first of all need to have belief. We also need to have a good store of knowledge, a good understanding of what we want, why we want it and what is the environment that we are operating in, right. Too many people worry about competitors and I would suggest to you that the competitor, like Henry Ford said, right, the competitor to be feared is one that doesn’t bother about you at all but spends his time quietly every day improving his own business. Well I suggest you be that competitor okay. So in short, to sum up don’t worry about Plan A, Plan B and so on. Doesn’t mean you don’t plan. You do plan and you plan as comprehensively as you can but don’t take too much time out trying to get a perfect plan. Plan reasonably well and just execute it okay, and if things really don’t work out maybe the objective wasn’t what you really wanted in the first place, okay. So go back, review if that’s what you really want and your plans will follow accordingly. Strategy, planning, etc, etc, are really very very simple okay, and once you get the hang of it they are also easy but the thing that I find plagues most people, most companies, is they don’t know what they want, they don’t know where they want to go. They say things like we’re gonna be great we’re gonna go for good to great. What is great? I don’t know but I’m going there. Right, so sort out what it is that you want to achieve and your plans will follow and you don’t have to worry about the 25 other letters, you don’t have to worry about people coming in to say that you know this doesn’t work and modify it somewhat. I have another post that’s called Parts of Blame, Parts of Fortune, where I discuss this. You can have a look at it. The link is in there. Go to my site and read up on whatever subjects, whatever topics related to leadership, related to soft skills, related to personality issues right. I think you’ll find quite a bit of stuff there. Take what you need, I hope it’s useful for you as I hope this particular post is useful for you as well. I trust it is. This is Elijah Lim, thanks for watching, have a great week ahead!

Post Script

Now a short word about contingencies right – many of us worry about contingencies far too much. What your plan should do is not ignore the contingencies or the things that could go wrong but you have to already take these into account when you make your plan and therefore a plan should be complete. It should already include contingencies. What if this, what if that and so on. All of these have to be components of that plan and therefore if you have Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, they are actually expressions of or what are the strategies that you are going to use to achieve your end goal and you can have Strategy A, Strategy B, Strategy C, and by the way don’t swallow that, the lie, right, that you have to have two of them that work and one that doesn’t work. That is rubbish, right. If you have three plans, ALL of them have to work right, it’s just which one you prefer, which one you think will work best. Some of them may proceed faster, but you may not want to go so fast in some situations, right, and speed is not always the best thing, but timing is of vital importance.

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