You might think that having a plan is enough to guarantee success.
After all, you’ve set your goal, some milestones, you’re committed. Surely that’s enough. Well, no, in reality having a plan by itself is not enough. Think back over all those New Year’s resolutions you’ve made. How many did you see through to success? Have you ever been on a diet? Or decided to get fit and start running, or join a gym?
Robbie Burns knew what he was talking about when he wrote ‘the best-laid plans of mice and men, often go astray.’ That poem is about a mother mouse having her supposedly safe cozy nest destroyed by a plow. An unforeseen circumstance. To a mouse, an act of God. And that’s often where our plans go astray.
You may have worked out how to brainstorm, mind map, to build a beautiful strategy but just making a plan is not enough.
There are three things you can do differently to increase your chances of success.
1. Allow for uncertainty
You can’t possibly know what’s going to happen next month or even next week. Things happen that are out of your control. Stock markets plunge, heatwaves or blizzards happen, suppliers go out of business, health scares happen.
You have to build in flexibility to your plan so that you can roll with the punches. Learn to get more comfortable with uncertainty and be able to react accordingly.
2. Know your weaknesses
Studies have shown that people tend to be overconfident in their abilities and capacity to deliver. Be honest and look back at your past performance. What are your weaknesses? No one is good at everything. So, whether it logistics, research, public speaking or sales, be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and how they are likely to impact on your chances of success. Once you know where you need support or extra skills, you can plug that gap and minimize the chances of failure.
3. Do some Doomsday planning
Another element that people tend to neglect when planning is being able to imagine the worst-case scenario. Visualizing failure doesn’t mean that’s where you want to head, but it allows you to plan for things going wrong and predict how you might react and prepare.
Say you’re planning a big event, a launch. You’re dependent on a whole lot of external variables to come together for success. So, prepare for one or all of them not working. From unseasonable weather to your main speaker pulling out, to the catering not arriving on time. What would you do in each case? If you have a contingency plan, you may not be able to failure-proof your event, but little will catch you off-guard either.
By planning things differently, it may allow you to be more flexible and realistic in dealing with the unexpected. Building uncertainty into your plan makes it more likely that you’ll succeed.