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The Best Laid Plans


"The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry"

Robert Burns

You're probably familiar with this famous quote from a Robert Burns poem. It also became the inspiration for John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel, Of Mice and Men. Although the poem was written in 1785, it has timeless wisdom. Robert Burns made the comparison between mice and men, that man can look back at the past and see forward to plan for the future, while the mouse is unaware of what may lie ahead, but Burns also acknowledged that men often fail in adequately planning for the future.

As we plan for our organization, we retain the awareness that not every plan will come to full fruition; there are bumps in the road, pitfalls that cannot be for seen. So, how do we maintain the goal, but change the plan, when things go awry?

Although we try to anticipate and plan for possible obstacles to any well laid plan, there are always unforeseen circumstances. And although we sometimes can’t control the obstacle or event that interrupts the plan, we can control how we choose to focus on it.

Top 5 ways to get the plan back on track:

  • Diagnose the problem. – What caused the plan to stall or get off course? By regularly monitoring the problem, we can see what is creating an obstacle, and intervene before it is too late.

  • Make sure the appropriate oversight is in place. – Who is overseeing the implementation and how are they overseeing it?

  • Communicate! – Good communication between, leadership, staff and boards is key to maintain a targeted focus on the implementation of a strategic plan.

  • Allocate resources. – The leader must ensure that proper resources are allocated in order to achieve delineated goals. Resources include human resources, allocation of time, as well as fiscal resources.

  • Ensure that everyone is on board with the mission, vision and plan for the organization. – Although last, this is a vital element of planning success. Negativity, or personal agendas can’t be allowed to sidetrack the organization. If these exist within the organization, they must be addressed to ensure organizational success.

Maintaining the goal, while adjusting the plans, can ensure that we still reach the desired outcome for the organization. The best outcome is dependent upon how we respond to obstacles. In the Burns poem, the man explains to the mouse, that the mouse has it better because he lives in the present, and is not troubled by events of the past, nor is he fearful of the future. Channeling the knowledge of past events in our organization, while looking to the future without the fear of navigating the obstacles, combines the best of man and mouse in planning for the future.