Some teams encounter insurmountable obstacles as they try to execute their plans. They nevertheless persist. When teams have difficulty abandoning — or even revising — their original plans, a natural question arises. Why can they not let go of Plan A? One possible reason why people might be reluctant to let go of Plan A is that there is no Plan B. The question then becomes, "Why is there no Plan B?"
Some people are averse to creating a Plan B, on principle. They cite a saying often attributed to hang glider pilots, "Don't look where you don't want to land." Presumably this applies mostly to hang glider landing maneuvers. In the context of projects, several interpretations are possible. Example #1: "Pay attention to where you want to land. Time you spend looking elsewhere is time you can't get back." To me, that seems like wisdom.
But another interpretation I've heard, which I regard as more questionable in value, is Example #2: "Looking at backup landing sites reduces the chances of landing where you want to land." Maybe that makes sense for hang gliding. For project planning, it seems like the opposite of wisdom.
Still, There are those who believe
that making backup plans is
tantamount to self-sabotagethere are those who believe that making backup plans is tantamount to self-sabotage. They argue that making backup plans takes time and resources. That time and those resources would have been available for Plan A, if we hadn't allocated them to developing Plan B. Taking them away from Plan A makes Plan A more likely to fail.
The problem with this argument is that it's a general statement. It suggests that all risk management enhances the probability of the managed risks materializing. That seems to me to be false on its face. So for me, having a Plan B doesn't make Plan A more likely to fail.
Another possible explanation for the apparent absence of a Plan B is that there actually is a Plan B, but it's a secret. There are those who believe that if the people who do the work of Plan A knew about Plan B, they might not work as energetically or creatively as needed for Plan A to succeed. Or they might not be willing to make the sacrifices necessary for Plan A to succeed. The advocates of this approach would likely agree with Samuel Johnson, who is credited with the insight that nothing so focuses the mind as the prospect of being hanged in a fortnight. These advocates conclude that keeping Plan B secret is necessary for the success of Plan A.
Sometimes, advocates of secrecy go a bit further. They argue for letting it be known — falsely — that a task force worked long and hard to put together a Plan B. And they failed. The task force found that no Plan B was possible. These advocates of Plan B secrecy believe that this false story will truly "focus the minds" of the Plan A teams.
So these are two reasons why a Plan B might not be available or might not be widely known. But why do people continue to advocate Plan A after it has already encountered serious obstacles, even when a Plan B is available? That's the topic for next time. Next in this series Top Next Issue
Is every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenIyeJIiAfnGdKlUXrner@ChacsxirZwZlENmHUNHioCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
This article in its entirety was written by a human being. No machine intelligence was involved in any way.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Workplace Politics:
- What Insubordinate Nonsubordinates Want: III
- When you're responsible for an organizational function, and someone not reporting to you doesn't comply
with policies you rightfully established, trouble looms. What role do supervisors play?
- When Your Boss Conveys Misinformation
- When your boss misspeaks — innocently, as opposed to deviously — what should you do? Corrections
are not always welcome, but failing to offer corrections can be equally dangerous. How can you tell
what to do?
- Reactance and Micromanagement
- When we feel that our freedom at work is threatened, we sometimes experience urges to do what is forbidden,
or to not do what is required. This phenomenon — called reactance — might explain
some of the dynamics of micromanagement.
- Joint Leadership Teams: Risks
- Some teams, business units, or enterprises are led not by individuals, but by joint leadership teams
of two or more. They face special risks that arise from the organizations that host them, from the teams
they lead, or from within the joint leadership team itself.
- Would Anyone Object?
- When groups consider whether to adopt proposals, some elect to poll everyone with a question of the
form, "Would anyone object if X?" It's a risky approach, because it can lead to damaging decisions
that open discussion in meetings can avoid.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming March 6: Six More Insights About Workplace Bullying
- Some of the lore about dealing with bullies at work isn't just wrong — it's harmful. It's harmful in the sense that applying it intensifies the bullying. Here are six insights that might help when devising strategies for dealing with bullies at work. Example: Letting yourself be bullied is not a thing. Available here and by RSS on March 6.
- And on March 13: On Anticipating Consequences
- Much of what goes wrong when we change systems to improve them falls into a category we call unanticipated consequences. Even when we lack models that can project these results accurately, morphological analysis that can help us avoid much misery. Available here and by RSS on March 13.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenIyeJIiAfnGdKlUXrner@ChacsxirZwZlENmHUNHioCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, )
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, )
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, )
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, )
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, )
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, )
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500-1000 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info