My experience with most executives and entrepreneurs is that they are totally committed to and focused on success. As a result, many of them tend to have a major blind-spot (translation: weakness) when it comes to the anticipation of set-backs. While this is understandable, it is nonetheless naive, and it constitutes a major flaw in the business logic of most strategic plans. This is so much the case that the most often overlooked aspect of strategic planning is adequately addressing contingencies as part of the planning process. As you get ready to usher in 2010, my suggestion is to take one final look back at your planning and assure that you’ve anticipated all the ways in which things can go wrong, and what you’ll do when the inevitable happens…
The reality surrounding the success of any implementation is found by understanding that no matter how smart you are, things rarely go as planned. Those that plan in advance for changes in circumstances can adroitly address issues when they occur, while those who must deal with “unforeseen” circumstances don’t tend to fare as well. Smart leaders view obstacles as a constant rather than a variable, and incorporate that thinking into their planning. Any well crafted strategy anticipates obstacles and factors in multiple “what if” scenarios. Leaders that wait until a problem occurs to deal with it place themselves and their organization at a huge strategic disadvantage.
The two most common outcomes created by a lack of contingency planning are: 1.) watching things grind to a halt as you scramble to evaluate options, and; 2.) having fewer options to assess based upon the new found time constraint. Speed is your friend and should be leveraged to your advantage. Speed is aided by anticipation and slowed by a lack thereof. Smart leaders will do everything in their power to keep a decreae in velocity from becoming a self imposed adversary due to a lack of contingency planning.
It is important to remember that contingency planning is a key to avoiding costly mistakes. In most cases your wins won’t put you out of business, but your losses most certainly can. The three most critical items to focus on when conducting your planning are:
- Insure that personal accountability is present on any major benchmark, milestone or deliverable.
- Make sure that someone has identified the 5 worst things that could happen with any initiative, what steps can be taken to prevent their occurrence, and what measures will be taken to overcome them if they happen?
- Make sure that advance warning signs for potential failures are identified and understood so that you have plenty of runway in front of you to implement your contingency plans.
Good luck and good planning.
Mike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of “Leadership Matters…The CEO Survival Manual“, and Managing Director of N2Growth.