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We all know that failing to plan is like planning to fail. A business without a plan – however rudimentary – is in serious trouble. So what do you do when ‘Plan A’ isn’t working?

Not every plan works perfectly though, and that’s where you need some behavioural flexibility, but what does behavioural flexibility really mean?

planningThe short answer is that if what you’re doing isn’t generating the results you want then you must do something else to correct that. Continuing to do the same things will only generate more of the same less-than-perfect results. So in this context there are several stages of flexibility.

The first stage is simply to modify the original plan. Maybe a little change is all that is required. Now I know that some people observe that the problem was a million to one failure and that the chance of another million to one failure is quite high (Well, a million to one to be exact!) so they repeat the original plan. That’s OK if it then works, but even if the second failure is another million to one event the plan needs to be modified to at least allow early detection of million to one failures! I know people who have experienced three failures in swift succession and still reject changing their original plan!

The little change might just mean involving someone else, changing the target or the timeframe, or the location.

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A serious failure might mean cancelling that project altogether. This is the second level of behavioural flexibility. Be prepared to walk away. If the project isn’t working and cannot be made to work, then continuing just adds to the likelihood of you getting ulcers! Of course you should identify what went ‘wrong’ and be able to fix that in the next project.

Walking away from a project creates the problem: what do I do now?

The answer to that question involves more behavioural flexibility! It may be that you just take some time off and plan your next project, which can be the new version of the ‘failed’ project or an altogether new idea.

If your cash flow situation doesn’t allow you to take that much time off then you need to find some way to generate cash flow while you get your own project back on track. That can be taking a short term contract or a part time job in your profession, taking a low-level ‘unskilled’ job outside normal business hours or a full time job until you restore some balance.

Of course there are many other things that you could do, and many ways to combine these ideas. A real life situation might never exactly match the conditions described here, the main point of this article is to give you a basic strategy that you can quickly develop into a series of activities that will work for you.

Be prepared to be flexible, because the one who controls a situation is the one who is prepared to be most flexible! That might sound counter-intuitive, but it’s true! I’ll write about that in a future entry. For now just remember – flexible means winner, not flexible means being left behind. If you don’t believe that – how many “T” models do you think Ford would sell today? Very few! Virtually every year Ford has improved their products, offering a wider range and more options. So has every other vehicle manufacturer. Now – if big companies like that need to be flexible then maybe there is a lesson for little companies too?

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