An elementary school teacher of mine had a favorite saying by Woody Allen, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” This irked me at the time – I was a very organized, very driven fifth grader with my whole life planned. The idea that the lessons imparted in school about organization, planning, goal-setting, and staying on task to reach those goals could all be for nothing disgruntled me. Of course, as an adult (and probably even as a fifth grader), I quickly grew to understand what the saying meant. Plans and goals are necessary for direction, for all the times when chance isn’t throwing a curve ball. Flexibility and adaptability – those, as we all know, are necessary to field those curve balls.
In our business acumen simulation, Zodiak: The Game of Business Finance and Strategy, we put learners in the driver’s seat of running a business. Naturally, throughout their experience as business owners, we throw them lots of curve balls.
This creates a fascinating dialogue in every session about preparing for what we term them – chance events. Can we really prepare for events out of our control that may or may not happen?
A month ago, we were facing Hurricane Irma – and a few days leading up to it, my family and I were scrambling for supplies – water, nonperishable food, gas, plywood. Yes – looking back on it, we could have prepared a bit better for that. Why didn’t we? We had the hurricane guidelines, the preparation packet, friends who work in emergency management posting pictures in June of their hurricane readiness kits. Yet we hadn’t had a direct hit from a hurricane in this area since 1921, so we didn’t prepare. Would it have been a good idea to prepare in June with some basic supplies? Absolutely. Has this experience changed my outlook on hurricane preparedness? Without a doubt.
Last Monday, I had my week planned out, almost to the minute, when I caught a bug and fell ill. There went my plans. This week, I prepared again for a productive week, bought groceries at the store and planned ahead for my meals through Friday. Today I found out I need to travel last-minute. I can’t help but think about that elementary school teacher and her favorite saying.
If I thought about these past two weeks and how I would have (and could have) done something differently to plan for the events that came up, I have plenty of ideas. I’m already thinking about how to buy less perishable groceries next week to keep my meal planning more scalable in case of schedule changes.
Obviously, my groceries were a very small aspect of having to travel last-minute and the logistical gymnastics of filling in for a colleague when an unexpected event came up in his life. This, again, makes me think of those chance events in business and in life. If I had thought to cross-train a few more people, perhaps it would’ve been easier to solve this scheduling dilemma.Hindsight is such a luxury. So is the time to reflect on what might be, what could be – without becoming paranoid, of course. But it’s so important to take the time to think about these things. What are a few things you can do to take action proactively about something (like better onboarding or business acumen training, or cross-training job roles or staffing for current AND future needs) that can make your life (your department, your role, your team, your organization) better positioned when chance rolls the dice?