7 Signs Your Best-Laid Plans Are About to Go Bust

Don Trone

Planning is a critical aspect of any undertaking, whether it be business, personal or financial. A process, either formal or not, is almost always essential. Key steps usually include Analyze, Strategize, Formalize, Implement and Monitor. With all that, what could possibly go wrong?

So, what are the 7 signs your best-laid plans are about to go bust? 

1. Risk: You know your best-laid plans are about to go bust when an unexpected event makes it clear that you underestimated the risks involved in your plan.

2. Trust: You know your best laid plans are about to go bust when those you have trusted to execute key portions of the plan have failed to do so because of their absence, being less than thorough, or missing key deadlines.

3. Ownership: You know your best-laid plans are about to go bust when it becomes painfully obvious that your team is not pursuing the plan as if they have “skin in the game.” Ownership and pride in outcomes are essential to success.

4. Constraints: You know your best-laid plans are about to go bust when the flexibility built into your plan has been obviated by a limited scope of options due to severe time and/or resource constraints.

5. Adaptive: You know your best laid plans are about to go bust when the team is not adequately adaptive and agile in pursuing the “branches and sequels” required to see a plan through. “Semper Gumby” (always flexible) should be plan watchwords.

6. Confusion: You know your best laid plans are about to go bust when there is confusion and doubt among the team about what to do next … usually after an unexpected turn of events.

7. Quiet: You know your best laid plans are about to go bust when those who normally advise you on the progress of the plan are eerily quiet …. the proverbial calm before the storm.

If your process and resulting plan works well, then good on you! But if there are hiccups and your plan gets sidetracked — or worse, derailed — don’t throw in the towel. Chances are your analysis or strategy is missing something, a step has been left out of the plan, or a step was missed in the execution phase. Go back to your process, tune up the weak points, and persevere!

Don Trone, Mary Lou Wattman and Rear Admiral Steve Branham, USCG (retired) are the co-founders of 3ethos. Their research and training programs are focused on the intersection between leadership, stewardship and governance. Don and Mary are the co-authors of the recently released book, LeaderMetrics®: What Key Decision-makers Need to Know When Serving in a Critical Leadership Role. 

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