As I start my new innings to carve a small place for myself as a writer, the corporate guy in me keeps pushing me to consider Plan ‘B’. I keep floating in a zone between self-confidence and self-doubt. Every day, the journey starts with confidence, by lunch, I am thinking about Plan ‘B’. Everyday evening, however, I decide to stay away from the ‘B’. Reminds me of an anecdote. One Monday afternoon, sometime in 2010-11. Many of us wish this day would be written off the week. Well, then we will dread the Tuesdays. So, let’s get on with it. We are in the board room discussing the weekly plan, last week’s actions and related things. The special item on the agenda was to prepare ourselves for the visit from the parent company. CEO comes, takes his place, and the meeting kicks off. As with most places, Sales was the first to go. Superstars, these people, they also face a lot of flak. The sales head is taking us through his presentation with detailed numbers for the next quarters. I am sitting there hearing him as well as looking at the slides. As he is nearly done, I clear my throat.
‘The numbers are impressive. Why the disclaimers?’ I was, of course, referring to the conditions put on the slide that would be necessary for the numbers to come true. The assumptions are integral to forecasts, but there were just too many.
CEO okays the presentation, then states, ‘Agree with Akash on the disclaimers. Failing to plan is one thing, but let’s not plan to fail.’ I still remember the lines as if spoken yesterday.
Failing to plan is one thing, but let’s not plan to fail.
Feb 04, 2015, Founder and CEO of Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes, made a statement in an interview with Stanford Business School, suggested to avoid backup plans while going for the goal. She was of the view that the minute you made a backup plan, you’ve admitted that you are not going to succeed. There was a lot of hue and cry over the statement. The circle of life came one full round in Jan 2017, when the company was forced to lay off almost 40% of their workforce. A lot of people jumped in to say, ‘I told you so.’ You can read one of those articles here.
My take on this is simple. You should and must have a Plan ‘B’. Everyone does. Even Elizabeth Holmes. What she meant (my interpretation) was not to work on a Plan ‘B’ while going for the goal. If your complete focus is not on the goal at hand, then you will fail. Business being business, even with complete focus, you may fail. That is when you should work on a Plan ‘B’. Not too soon and not too late.
This debate of Plan B will continue, and the questions on it will keep haunting business leaders forever. I will put it in plain words; I will not work on a Plan ‘B’. I will put my complete focus on writing. I know what I am good at. I don’t have only a Plan ‘B’. I have a Plan ‘C’, ‘D’, and ‘E’ too. But I will put no part of my efforts on acting on those plans while I am working on my current goal. At some point depending on the situation, I may have to put some effort there. But not now, not until I have given it my all on the current goal…