There is no such thing as a bulletproof plan – therefore a decision to execute any plan includes certain risks. Any leader making a decision more or less willingly accepts those risks. The million $ question is then – do you know the risks you have accepted, and are you really willing to risk them?

First contact

It is a military expression, that even the best of plans only holds until first contact with the enemy. The point being, your plan will have flaws and even if it doesn’t, the enemy will do something you didn’t expect. In other words when planning you better make sure to try to find as many flaws, holes, and inherent risks as possible and even strive to have the solutions ready – you will need them.

This strategy will work…

No matter which side of the table you are on, you have probably experienced a situation where an employer (area manager, sub director or similar) presented a plan to superiors – which they just didn’t like all that much. As their dismay increased the presenter’s arguments, list of risk-free gains, and buckets of gold at the end of the rainbow would increase in reverse proportion. Perhaps he is right and it is a good plan, but if it is that marvelous – they will get it! (Very few companies have complete morons in their top management)

When creating strategies or business plans you most often have to convince others of the marvel of your ideas. As you receive sparring or feedback you will sharpen your arguments, and your plan will improve. But, your ownership of the plan will most likely also increase in the process. This generates a tendency towards feeling you have found and corrected any even remotely thinkable flaw. Decision makers also gain ownership of plans created in their organization or when genuinely convince of a sound strategy.

Be skeptical

When you have been convinced, you let your guard down – don’t. Even the plan of all plans has flaws and risks. Don’t convince yourself that the plan has been optimized so you can feel safe. The world has yet to see a perfect strategy, if you don’t see the risks look again, and again, and… I this phase you don’t want to kill a decent plan, but you must be skeptical enough to identify the risks involved.

How are your odds?

Spend more time finding, quantifying, and evaluating the risks than minimizing them. Until you know, which possible magnitude of failure any given risk presents, it is impossible to prioritize how much time and energy it is worth spending to remove or minimize that risk. I will argue, that very often heaps of resources are spend – in a semi-desperate attempt to remove even  minor risks, which – based on their evaluation – simply aren’t worth the attention.

Be optimistic

Millions of plans have worked even though they included risks. Most of us manage to get to work and back everyday even though traffic often seems like a suicidal activity. Believe in your plans, support them all the way, convince others of their genius and carry them out with conviction – otherwise you have just increased the chances of failure by a least 50%. Do this because you know your risks, you have recognized them and not just gambled you miraculously managed to make them disappear.

Decide don’t gamble

Anyone can gamble. I’m a firm believer in gut reactions, and excellent managers can often judge a great deal from their gut reactions. Not because they gamble, but because they have experience and knowledge. The big decisions, which lead to success, are made openly and knowingly of your risks and threats. Everything else is just gambling – decide or throw the dice…


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