In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable – Dwight D. Eisenhower
I had an employer a while back who printed that quote out as a poster and hung it over our department (Maintenance Planning, appropriately) as a general rule for how we should approach things. He was right. The premise was that whatever plan you think will occur simply won’t – especially during emergencies, last-minute developments, etc. (otherwise known as Murphy’s Law.) However, if you have a framework to guide you, it becomes a lot easier to adjust and have a new plan to get you moving forward again.
…there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.
The context of that statement, of course, caused all sorts of controversy and commentary – but the underlying logic of the unknown unknowns is that there are some gaps in your knowledge where you simply cannot know that a gap exists yet.
So my unknown unknown (this event was never going to happen today) just got upgraded to a known known.
I’m committed at this point – I made room in my schedule for this today, I’m already halfway across town, and I’m sitting in traffic with visibility around a quarter mile in a clear patch. What do I do?
Time to use that framework and make a different plan to capture this new opportunity (free time!) that I now have.
- Does this issue let me start over somehow and do it better the next time?
- What can I do now that was literally impossible to do just a minute ago?
- Was this plan even workable? If not, how can I take advantage of what’s just happened?
And Kevin? We’ve got to work on the timing of those notifications, my friend. 🙂