Sunday, April 22, 2007

On Plans & Planning

Too often we hear this group went into affair X without a plan.

Now, no doubt sometimes groups plan poorly or fail to implement according to plan but often times the above phrase is a substitute for the plan failed. Plans are bound to fail especially when dealing with situations where there is an opposition.

He had a plan and so too did Virginia Tech. However, his plan anticipated VT's plan and his plan worked. Doesn't mean no plan was in place.

It is a cliche to say no plan survives first contact with the enemy and it is cliche for a reason because it is so true. Sports competition should make this obvious. The plan was so perfect on the chalkboard or on the clipboard, but it did not work, why not? Did the players execute poorly? Perhaps, but even if they execute perfectly remember the opposition has a veto on the success of plans.

Now, many people will say well need to have a backup plan! Well, then it is possible to need plans A, B, C, D,....alpha, beta, gamma,...., aleph,.... Then you run into the idea he who plans for every possible contingent plans for nothing.

Best Information

When planning something that is going to be opposed you make plans based on best information available withing your time frame (obviously the information is going to be more accurate & abundant from 50 years from now but if you have to act by the end of next month you can not wait for fifty years to pass).

Backup Planning

Backup planning is necessary but becomes more problematic because then you are attempting to foresee the outcome of events with the initial plan. The information problem now becomes guesswork at least with respect to outcomes. So, you may have a number of backup plans but the initial plan fails because of a completely unforeseen set of circumstances and now instead of executing the backup plans you are either improvising or hurriedly making a new plan.

Improvised Action

Improvised action is not as bad as many would suppose. Our military depends on commanders being able to do this. A commander's aide walking the battlefield notes an unplanned for situation developing and then acts above his rank to make sure the situation is dealt with. A good example of improvised action is the defense of Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg. They did not follow protocols or established plans; if they did the Battle of Little Round Top, Gettysburg, and perhaps even the US Civil War would have been decided differently.

Professional Basketball & Jazz are examples of improvised action. As long as the people involved are motivated, and capable of understanding the situations they are in, they should be able to respond in the correct manner. Does not mean it is easy or is always successful, but it is not perilous as it seems.

Plans for Unopposed Action

Plans for unopposed action have the benefit of not having someone actively trying to derail the plan, but contain all of the other unknowns. The possibility of knowing the risks and eventual outcomes is higher.

Making good backup plans is also more likely and the outcome of unopposed plans is more reliant on the proper plan design and implementation.

However, never ever confuse plans for opposed action to those for unopposed action.