I’m in the process of planning this summer’s Sierra backpacking trip.
Maps, guidebooks, and random bits of equipment are heaped all around my house. Along with testing gear, dehydrating food, and packing, I’m plotting out my itinerary.
One crucial bit of information I am researching and marking on all my maps: potential bail-out points. If I needed to evacuate, where could I hook up with a side trail that would take me quickly to a road or town or ranger station?
I am experienced in the outdoors, but there are always things that can go wrong. I could get injured, become sick, lose or break a crucial piece of gear, run out of food. The weather could get nasty or there could be a forest fire. I might just decide that this whole adventure is crazy and I’m just plain miserable and ready to abort the mission.
The activity of thinking about possible problems and plotting how I’d deal with them reduces the likelihood that they will occur, and increases my chances of surviving them happily.
Quick switch from recreation to business: I think we don’t engage in this “what if” activity frequently enough in our strategic planning processes.
I’m as guilty of this as anyone. I’ve led many groups through the steps of reviewing the mission statement, brainstorming lofty goals for the next five or ten years, and plotting out timelines for achieving them. But systematically looking at each fork in the road, imagining what could go wrong, and creating a contingency plan? Not as common. Nor do we often stop and look at what factors might legitimately lead us to abandon any given project or goal.
I guess I’ve just added another item to my checklist: revise my strategic planning curriculum!