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Plan B: An Alternative, Not Just a Backup

Whether it’s a 5 year plan or our To-Do list for today, we all have things we want to accomplish. While most planning processes focus on goals and objectives…

…there is tremendous merit in creating a potential problem protection plan – also known as Plan B.

I didn’t set out to be a Management Development Training Consultant. I started out doing exactly what I wanted to be doing at the time – being a Guidance Counselor. I loved everything about it except the appallingly bad pay, having to be in my office at 7:00 am, and the fact that all of the teachers seemed to really dislike my students – the adjudicated youth that I was trying to keep from dropping out of school.

Then came a move to a different state, a shift in the economy, and I found the need to create a Plan B. A stint in executive recruiting, a certificate program in Organizational Development, and a few years (and moves) later, and I was an internal training consultant in corporate America. A layoff and several job interviews later and I created a management development training consulting practice. Though this was not my original career plan, had I not needed to create a Plan B I wouldn’t be able to point to some of the professional accomplishmentsof which I am most proud (and amazed).

There are times in life when opportunities present themselves but more often than you might think we have to create our own opportunities. Plan Bs come in handy for real life forecasts. I don’t have to look too far back to see just how handy having a Plan B would have been:

·       Client who loved my work and hired me to help lay the groundwork for a significant initiative; the top person was relocated and the implementation was handed off to someone else. That person stood me up for two meetings and I quickly got the not-so-subtle hint that my time working with that company was at an end.

·       A Colleague who was eager to meet scheduled 3 different meetings at three different times in three different locations; all of which were canceled at the last minute. Had I turned away others who might have made the meeting? You bet!  

·       A Consultant who agreed with my assessment that our work was complementary; we met several times over almost two years. I was asked to do some research and when I submitted it, that was the end of our conversations.

Without a plan, you have no idea where you are going. It’s the map you follow as you travel the professional road. But you also have to know how to react and respond because things don’t always go according to plan. In fact, I find that some days the odds are 50/50 that my day will have at least one revised activity. Plan B is the insurance needed so that when things change (or other people mess up your carefully constructed intentions) you don’t have to fall apart – even if your day does.

So here are some ideas about creating an outstanding Plan B:

Be Ready To Adjust – Having a backup plan gives you an advantage when it comes time to pivot. When things change, you can be ready. Resist the temptation to be smug and think you are in control of everything and everyone. Expect the unexpected.

Get Ahead of Yourself – Create a cushion by creating a moved up date on things so that you have the time to review and revise. You can’t create a Plan B if you are behind on your Plan A. Getting things done ahead of time lets you consider options and can eliminate operating in crisis mode. If you are always creating fires, you’ll have a tough time when other fires start to break out.

Use Your Imagination – Since a Plan B is made when you have time to think, you can be more creative. Often we do things the fastest way, but it’s not always the best way to get something done. There are many ways to accomplish tasks.

Be Ready for Slack Time – Backup plans can allow you to get things done during that downtime that steals 5 or 10 minutes at a time: waiting for the meeting to start or waiting for your appointment. Why not put that time to use by reading the article you had earmarked, working on a report that is due, or reaching out to a business colleague?

Plan B = Less Stress – Backup plans can reduce your stress because you don’t need to dive into panic mode when you know what you will do when things don’t go as planned. Continue to invest in your personal and career growth so you have more options from which to choose.

If you find yourself running at 180 MPH and haven’t thought about alternatives to get tasks and objectives accomplished, then I can predict with a fair amount of certainty that life will throw you a detour.

Plan for it!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 5th, 2012 at 12:50 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.