Plan on the worst-case scenario; then the only way is up!

Recently I was working with four groups of people looking at planning for next year.  We all most likely want to put 2020 to bed and think ahead to the promise of 2021.  2020 has been nothing short of a nightmare.  But at the end of all nightmares we wake up and realise things in reality aren’t as bad.

Planning ahead can be a difficult thing to do.  I’ve noticed how different people have different attitudes to it.  For some, it is such an abstract concept they simply don’t function on anything but concrete facts, which totally blows any chance of planning out of the water.  For others, they like, no love, to plan everything in meticulous detail and for every conceivable scenario.  Both groups have very distinct attitudes to risk.  The former are prepared to take risks, even enjoy them.  The latter are risk-averse, it leaves them in a cold sweat.  I guess if you are in a team you need some sort of hybrid version of the two approaches. 

By the end of the session with the second group I was starting feel surprised how many people were adopting a ‘wait and see’ style.  Was this a result of such uncertainty in 2020 and an ever-changing narrative or stream of government diktats?  Was it a symptom of change and planning fatigue?  Let’s face it the past nine months has been pretty exhausting reacting to emergencies and no notice issues.  Perhaps our planning skills have diminished this year.

Keeping our fingers crossed, because something might change, isn’t a super sensible approach.  But surely it does have some merit.  You might save the time spent on unnecessary planning on better more enjoyable things – like life, self-care, rest. 

However, I think there at least needs to be a plan A and a plan B.  Plan A needs to be structured on what we most likely think will happen.  Our best guess based on the analysis we have undertaken.  Founded upon on what we think.  Plan B needs to be an outline of what we might do if the plan A assumption is wrong.  It’s the back-stop position.  Plans in reserve.  So if it is needed, at least there a starting from scratch or a blank sheet of paper situation.  Not that all plans need to be written down. 

Then, there is the joy that a doom-and-gloom worst-case scenario plan can bring.  What’s that you say?  Bear with.  We all have colleagues who are the glass half-empty, the ‘Eeyore’ to our ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’.  It can feel frustrating, but every, and I mean every, team needs one.  They keep our feet on the ground and temper unrealistic optimism or denial.  So, please let us value the contribution such colleagues bring.  They help us think about the most terrible things that could happen, and this should be a springboard to help us formulate our plan As and plan Bs.  And very likely, their prophecies will not fully come true.  And in that event, it can feel like a little boost when things aren’t as bad they could be.  Little consolation, but we must take what we can this year.  Planning for me in 2021 is based around the notion it will be better than 2020.  That 2020 was the worst-case scenario.  Here’s hoping, fingers and toes crossed, and plan A and plan B ready.

Photo by Sid Ali on

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