Disclaimer: This article has nothing to do with the morning-after pill “Plan B”!
In one of my jobs in the corporate world, the company had ordered a multi-purpose CNC machine from overseas for adding capability to our machining processes. As was usually the case, the decision to buy this multi-million dollar machine was made in the ivory towers of top management, without much consultation with the common folk living down the hierarchy tree in the operational world.
When the plans were passed on to me to have everything ready for the machine to be installed upon arrival, the operational team was stumped with the floor space that this machine was going to take up. On discussing this space issue with the senior management official who had signed off the purchase, he confirmed that a company we were sharing some floor space with, would be moving out soon thereby creating the space needed for the new machine. While this seemed like a reasonable idea upfront, the problem was two-fold. Firstly, there was no definite timeframe for that company to vacate our premises. Secondly, the new machine was due to arrive in just over 3 months!
As the days went by, and there seemed to be no sign of progress in terms of freeing up space, I checked with the senior manager if there was space available in the yards of any of our other group companies in case we needed to move out some stock to accommodate the new machine. I mentioned I was trying to think of a Plan B if the other company did not vacate our warehouse in time. I got a terse reply from him that “Plan B is to make Plan A work”!
There is a school of thought that Plan B is for losers. I once heard someone say “Dreams don’t have room for backup plans”.
In addition to the senior manager who shot down my idea of a Plan B, some famous people think along similar lines -
Arnold Schwarzenegger – “I hate Plan B – if you have a Plan B then you can never fully focus on Plan A and that’s a mistake”.
Will Smith – “There’s no reason to have a Plan B because it distracts from Plan A”.
What do you think? Is there any merit in this theory of “Plan A…that’s it…period”?
I have some questions for those who think Plan B is a waste of time.
· What about unforeseen circumstances?
· Is it wise to put all eggs in one basket?
· Take the current Covid situation – Would anyone refute the fact that businesses having a Plan B have survived better than those who didn’t?
PLANNING AND STRATEGY
Pivoting is a common buzzword in today’s business circles, which means fundamentally changing the direction of a business if its current products or services are not meeting the customer demand or its own business objectives. Is this not a Plan B? Being adaptable and nimble enough to make changes when faced with unexpected obstacles makes good business sense, doesn’t it?
Think military leadership. There is always an alternate option when any strategy in battle is drawn up. A strategy of preparedness for any eventuality - Plan B!
Having a contingency plan puts you at ease and gives you greater energy to go all out for Plan A, in my humble opinion. Peace of mind and the feeling of security that comes from having a Plan B helps eliminate the panic and chaos that could set in if Plan A doesn’t work.
To get back to Will Smith’s quote on Plan B distracting from Plan A, I feel that can only happen if you’re constantly thinking about Plan B while working on Plan A. But if you have worked out a backup plan and then put it aside to continue your focus on Plan A, why should it cause any distraction? Give Plan A your maximum effort, secure in the knowledge that if things do go south due to circumstances outside your control, you have another option to fall back on. As Benjamin Disraeli said, “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst”.
PLAN B AT WORK
Here are some examples of Plan B in everyday life - Spare tires in cars, carrying an umbrella, a parent taking additional diapers for their baby, applying for more than one job, or life jackets on a boat. Do any of these come across as a bad idea that distracts from your original plan?
I’ve had clients who wanted to switch from working for a company to starting their own business. As I work with them on their action plans, the focus is obviously on making the transition from employee to entrepreneur. However, if things start to get challenging after a while in terms of financial difficulty affecting their ability to pay their mortgage or other bills, a Plan B such as working part-time temporarily would be prudent, don't you think?
Plan B does not mean “preparing to fail” …in fact, it means “serious about succeeding”. The goal of Plan B is not to replace Plan A at the first available opportunity, rather help Plan A succeed by strengthening your mindset and giving you an alternate option (if required) to reach the same goal. It is similar to driving to a destination. If the main route is blocked due to a traffic jam, isn't it a good idea to take an alternate route?
For those of you wondering about the outcome of the predicament that I had mentioned at the start of this post, I didn’t stay in that company for much longer after my interaction with the “Plan B non-believer” so what happened with the installation of the CNC machine I don’t know, and “frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”! :-)
As you read this blog post, if you feel like you need help with your career plans (A, B, or any other!), please contact me at the email address given below, and get yourself the advantage of working in tandem with a coach to achieve greater traction and momentum towards your chosen objectives.