We are living in complicated times.
Getting plans to align with what we think might happen is a lot easier than squaring them with reality.
The closer to the action, the further away you get from the plan.
Forecasting is OK for bookmakers but not a lot of good for strategic planners. Indeed, the fluidity of events, the compounding complexity the arrival of the unexpected makes anything with ‘strategic’ in the title, about a useful as scaffolding in an earthquake.
Strategic plans are the management equivalent of a comfort blanket; ‘we have a plan, we’ll be OK’.
Managers generally overestimate their ability to predict the future, in consequence, they’re overconfident of their accuracy and precision…
… and they underestimate ultimate variable, human nature. Strategy does what’s good for organisations, human nature does what’s best for people.
The era of strategy is probably over. The disruption of Covid and its consequences, its likely reappearance, the impact, means we should be looking for a substitute to strategy.
We have to stop strategic planning, for which no one ever takes responsibility and instead, take-on the burden and accountability for making decisions.
The new reality will call for tactics and techniques. The need to be nimble and fluid and a big part of that is understanding what to do when things go wrong.
And, they will. How to deal with it…
Agile, part of the new future is about being able to adjust goals and targets. If we can’t achieve this target, let’s go for that. Can’t do A, let’s do B.
In turbulent times, having a plan B is as important as having plan A. During the planning process, some people think it’s a sign of weakness to acknowledge, everything won’t go to plan and refuse to write a plan B.
Tell that to events!
Realism doesn’t discount optimism but the two, together, are powerful, practical partners in achievement. A new talent, being the realistic-optimist!
When things go wrong, it may be a fail, it may be a loss but the important thing is, don’t lose the experience. Dig into failure like a prospector digs for gold. Move from failure, maybe, to the next failure, enthusiastically, it brings you closer to success!
You are who you hang-out with. Always hire people better than you and don’t be afraid to ask for their advice. Ask the people doing the job, why it’s gone wrong. Ask people doing similar things in other places, how they’re getting on. Never underestimate the power of networking… or a gossip!
Looking for someone to blame is a waste of time. Leave all that in the rearview mirror. Reflect on yourself, what did you miss, what should you have seen coming. How accountable are you?
Asking people their opinion is one thing but letting them see you ask the tough questions of yourself, will show them it’s safe to speak up.
Don’t waste the opportunity. There is always something good you can take. To do that you really have to understand what has happened, what’s derailed you.
The root-cause may not be the cause you first see.
Track and tracing is a good example. We have a T&T ‘strategy’. Despite huge efforts, the numbers aren’t great. Around a quarter of people can’t be found or followed-up.
The root-cause? Leadership, poor training, planning, lack of skills, local-knowledge, investment? I doubt it’s any of that.
My guess, people don’t want to be found, traced or tracked. If they are, they’ll have to self isolate and that may well cut their income or end employment.
And, it is entirely possible that it could happen to them, more than once.
Give them a guaranteed, isolation payment and watch the results improve. People have mouths to feed, rents to pay and jobs to hold onto.
Duck out, go to work, keep your mouth shut; the dangerous option for the strategy, the safe option for the individual.
You can plan, you can train, skill-up and be as strategic as you like, but it’s a lot smarter to understand human nature.