If you break it down to its prehistoric DNA, the plot of blockbuster Jurassic World and its predecessors resembles anybody’s bad day at the office: You set out to do something with good intentions and high hopes. Something goes wrong, but no big deal — there are systems to deal with it.
But, systems fail. Plan B is launched. Unintended consequences ensue. Repeat with Plans C, D, and E until you conclude that maybe the entire concept is flawed.
Even when no dinosaurs are involved, it’s a frustrating spiral. But short of casting an action figure to come in and save the day, what can you do when a plan you’ve worked to bring to reality goes horribly wrong?
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How to avoid your plan going wrong
- Plan and plan again. First, back up to the planning stage. Prevention is always better than repairs. While everything’s still on the drawing board, begin looking for the points where you’re less confident of the outcome. Search for cracks in the foundation and fix them before you put up walls. Bring in a trusted associate to serve as devil’s advocate to challenge every point.
- Build a problem-solving culture. To solve problems on the fly requires an organizational culture that is candid and rewards honesty and reasoned risk-taking — a tone that you, as the leader, have to set from the top. You never know who will shine under pressure, so watch for problem-solving talent even in unexpected places.
- Give it all you’ve got. When a problem does emerge, assign your best people to deal with it and make it their only priority. Do your troubleshooters have all the resources they need? Are there redundant systems to cover for the routine tasks that need to be maintained until the problem is solved and everyone goes back to their regular routine?
- Keep communication open. A good flow of communication and data is essential to any enterprise, especially when things go wrong. Are channels open and well organized with no silos? Does everyone know where to go and what to do with what information? Good communication allows you to deal with issues before they turn into problems, but it takes work.
- Think solutions through. The last thing you want is a solution that creates more problems than it solves. Don’t overlook secondary issues because you’re against a tight deadline.
- Ask yourself what you’re missing. Is there a major flaw somewhere you might need to revisit? If you suspect that may be the case, put everything on hold and spend some time in analytical mode. It may even be — hard as it is to think about — that the entire concept just isn’t workable. Be tenacious in pursuing your goals, but be willing to face facts if the current plan isn’t realistically going to get you there.
- Learn from your mistakes. If the outcome is dismal, it still doesn’t have to be a total loss. There’s experience to be gained and lessons to be learned from even the biggest disasters.
You gotta learn from your mistakes
Of course any plan runs into obstacles and problems, but make it your goal to incorporate what you’re learning into the plan so you never solve the same problem twice.
It’s an approach that may be bad for dinosaurs and action movie sequels, but it’s good for leadership.