May 12, 2017

The Best Laid Plans

The Best Laid Plans

It’s Sunday, May 7, 2017, in Hanover, Germany, and you’re all set with your weekend plans, except for the World War II bombs that have just been discovered, undetonated, in your neighborhood. There goes your relaxing afternoon of family time or TV golf, as the entire town is evacuated so the German government can safely diffuse the 1943 ordnance that is slowly but inexorably wreaking havoc down the street.

This is a true story, and not the first time, incidentally, that Germany has had to evacuate a whole town in order to dispose of still-dangerous explosives from the Allied invasion. Talk about crisis management!

It is also a parable for dealing with potential problems before they become real problems. Businesses can draw several lessons here:

Planning is paramount. Don’t be caught unaware. Have a disaster plan in place covering various contingencies, and review it and update it frequently.

Be prepared for the unthinkable. This is where surround yourself with people smarter than yourself is especially important. Regular readers of this column have heard me say this many times. Don’t be foolish enough to think you have all the answers. Make sure you have a management team, as well as a board and advisors, formal or informal, whom you trust to bring the best possible thinking to the table in all circumstances. Your company’s ability to ride things out when the riding gets hairy depends on it.

Nothing is carved in stone. Many times, I get to work in the morning with a “to do list” expecting to spend the next 10 or 12 hours one way, then either the phone rings or I get an unexpected email and end up spending the entire day doing something completely different (including putting out fires). As the saying goes, change is the only thing you can count on. And as we all know, change can sometimes throw a real wrench in the works. So be ready with the right resources on hand or easily accessible to deal with whatever comes up.

Own up. By which I mean, take ownership of the situation, even if it is not of your doing. Stay focused on resolving the situation and save the blame game for later. Don’t brush things under the rug hoping they’ll go away, they never do. Then use the event as a blueprint for preventing a recurrence in the future.

The residents of Hanover were bussed away for a day of free museum visits and movies. They were returned home in time for supper.

That’s the way all problem situations – both big and small – should end. Let us hope that should any of us ever be faced with a serious threat to our businesses, we have the same fortunate outcome. Foresight, expertise, intelligence, bandwidth, and wide open eyes are the best tools for getting everyone home safely for dinner.

On another note, Sunday is Mother’s Day. To my mother in South Florida, as well as all the other mother’s out there, happy Mother’s Day.