The Importance of a Plan B


This was something that struck me when I attended the “Developing Personal Effectiveness” course in Ashorne Hill. As part of the course there were a set of group exercises, where our group trumped the other group’s efforts most of the time. The difference appeared to be that they had a plan and stuck to their plan through thick and thin, even when it became clear that the plan wasn’t working.

On the other hand, our group sometimes resorted to unorthodox means of achieving the goal when it turned out that our original approach was not getting us anywhere. Not sure if it always was good for group dynamics (which was really what the exercises were supposed to be about), since some people felt that their efforts had been gazumped, since their initial efforts had been dropped in favour of subsequent, more effective efforts without too much of a discussion.

Especially when it came to time constraints, unorthodox methods sometimes cut the time required to get the job done, but an outsider might have frowned about exactly how it was achieved. For instance there was one instance where you had to get from one side to the other side standing on crates, of which you only had three to achieve your goal. The initial approach was for two people to cross using the same set of crates, then one person to return with the crates, followed by two more people making the next crossing.

Effective ? Sort of. Time consuming ? You betcha ! So in the end we had one person throwing the crates from one side of the divide to the other side, meaning that you could have two people crossing without having to return anyone. Clearly, throwing crates had its own risks, but when you’re running out of time, then that’s the least of your worries.

Now if you translate this to a works environment, it goes to show that being task oriented gets results, but could carry the risk of losing the approval of part of your team, or could well lead you to ignore elementary safety rules. But it also highlights the importance of having an alternative plan so that you can switch midstream should your initial plan gets bogged down and does not deliver the expected results.

Otherwise you’re doomed to continue trying to repeat your plan A, trying to perform it to the best of your capability until you get lucky or until you fail utterly. And should your plan A contain a fatal flaw that dooms it to failure, having a plan B as an option is always a good thing.

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