Moving to Plan B

What to do when your plan isn't working.

"In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." That observation by Dwight D. Eisenhower underlies the premise of David K. Murray's book, "Plan B: How to Hatch a Second Plan That's Always Better Than Your First." No matter how well you plan, things change and your business plan must change appropriately -- and quickly.

Most strategic plans fail, Murray writes, because they're not flexible enough to adjust to fast-changing conditions. He says that is the Achilles heel of top-down strategic plans. They're either not adjusted or, he observes, the adjustments are made "with no regard to how these adjustments align with the overarching strategy." As a result, strategic plans quickly become obsolete.

The value of Plan B, Murray posits, is that it provides an intelligent adjustment to the original plan, based on a combination of strategic planning and tactical execution he terms "adaptive management." In his view, business models are solutions to well-defined customer problems. The "problems" you choose to solve will define your strategy (what you are going to do) while your tactics entail the things you do to solve these problems (how you are going to do it).

As you execute your plan, Murray explains, you will see when the tactics you are using aren't adequate for pulling off your strategy; when your tactics are becoming obsolete, upstaged by a new set that you should adopt; and when you should change your strategy because the problem you're solving isn't relevant any longer. Then it's time to move to Plan B. As he states: "Victory isn't always about a foolproof plan. Sometimes we have to break things apart, take inventory of the pieces and then put them back together to start anew."

See Also:
Making Sure the Price is Right

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