Having a Plan B

Recently, I read something that suggested, not only should you have a plan B to ensure success, but also a plan C and a plan D. Well, I am here to argue against the case for a Plan B. As for the others, if you don’t need a plan B, then it should go without saying that you don’t need them either.

One time, I attended a management training course and in one of the exercises we were asked to think of our own strengths and weaknesses. By the way, it is a good thing to do for yourself when you have some time. Just brainstorm a list of those things. If you run a business, do a full SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and commit to doing them regularly. You would be amazed at how you can refocus your efforts once you become aware of your weaknesses.

Anyway, I remember listing ‘optimism’ as one of my strengths. When it came to weaknesses, it was not so easy to make the list. Not because I don’t think I have any – I certainly do have many weaknesses – but that is the very reason why the list can be so difficult to make. I mean, how do you pick out the top ones? Not so easy, eh? So what I did was to take each of the strengths and then try to see an associated weakness.

Now, as I said, I had listed ‘optimism’ as one of my strengths and I genuinely believe this attitude is indeed a strength, not a weakness (see here). However, I started thinking about what people who are not naturally optimistic would do that I didn’t, as an optimist. The answer I eventually came up with was that they would make contingency plans; in other words, they would have a plan B.

Over the years, I have lost count of the number of conversations I have had in both my business life and my private life where someone would ask, ‘what do we do if it doesn’t work?’ My answer has always been the same i.e. that it will work and that if some set of very unlikely circumstances conspire to scupper our plans, we’ll deal with the situation when it arises. That has always been my attitude. I have always felt that time spent on making a plan B is, essentially, time wasted and indeed, possibly a sign that we did not really believe in our plan A.

Of course, I do accept the need for contingency plans in very many situations. Business Continuity Planning is, or should be, an important part of any business. But when it comes to my own personal success planning, then plan B is always out the window. I don’t want or need a plan B. I want to dedicate the time and effort to plan A. I want to get it right, I want to refine it, I want to tweak it as we go and I want it to succeed. So I think that really, this attitude can be both a strength and a weakness, depending on the type of planning you are doing. When it comes to personal success, I neither want nor need a plan B.

So, as far as your personal success plans are concerned, do you have a plan B? If so, I wonder if you would describe yourself as an optimist; I would guess not. You would probably not wish to describe yourself as a pessimist either. My guess would be that you might describe yourself as a realist. Is there anything wrong with your plan B? Probably not. But my advice would be to take another look at your plan A. If you feel the need for plan B, then it may be a sign that you are not fully committed to plan A.

2 thoughts on “Having a Plan B

  1. Robin

    I have through many management programs and all the time, I heard about SWOT analysis of the company for which you are working. Actually my work is to explore opportunities and enter into those areas before my business competitors enter. Yes, I also agree one should have multiple plans and if one fails, one can immediately go through another. Well written article, which has reminded me of work in office. Thanks

  2. Bobby Dean Hight III

    I have to agree with you 100%. Where most plan to fail, much less, plan multiple outcomes and that is planning at all. I have always said, “Failing to Plan IS Planning on Failing.” Giving yourself alternative outcomes however, is consciously telling yourself – you will fail what it is you are really trying to achieve. We to often are defeated out of the gate due to the fact of not having all the facts upfront, and not relying on the unknown, “Faith” to ultimately get us there.

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