I recently noticed a LinkedIn post on success and failure that led me to the need to comment. The quote from the article that gave me some consternation:
The minute you have a back-up plan, you’ve admitted you’re not going to succeed. ~Elizabeth Holmes
Theranos Founder & CEO
When I am driving a car, I keep in mind I may have to find an alternate path, lest in my obstinacy I run headlong into another car that shows up on my side of the road. This was part of my driver’s education so many years ago and it is generally sound advice. Back-up plans (plan b) are more akin to this type of action than admitting failure or that failure is possible. Back up plans can be alternative routes to our objective. If we extend the above argument a bit further, my plan is to take interstate 85 to Greensboro, and if that is blocked due to an accident, I will sit there rather than re-route using any number of other solutions to reach the objective. I would not think of nor act upon an alternative plan in which to resort as it was not part of my original plan.
In the environment espoused by the above quote, I could justify using the same plan, that I have watched fail over and over again, just so it would not look as if I believe failure is possible. It sets up a scenario in which I metaphorically (and perhaps literally) burn my hand on the same hot stove repeatedly and never learn, or adapt the planned approach or appropriately alter the objective. Here’s perhaps news, failure is always possible whether or not you acknowledge or account for that possibility.
There is no admission of failure in altering the plan or coming up with an entirely new plan as an alternative approach should the present plan not succeed. The approach that you believe will work in the beginning may not as you learn about the risks and the objective. My experience suggests many executives believe this tripe. Rather than altering to a plan that may have a higher probability of success, they maintain pushing the square peg plan into the round holed objective.
It is also not an admission of failure to learn and understand what you thought may have been a good plan and a worthy and achievable objective are in fact not. There are real circumstances which can make the plan or the objective not feasible. The travesty is in believing that all that is needed is to stick to the one plan or objective and an unwillingness to adjust to the facts on the ground for fear of the acknowledgement that things can go wrong. Failure can happen whether you acknowledge the possibility or not. The key is to learn from that, adjust your plans and perhaps objectives accordingly, and continue to work toward the goal. There are many other letters in the alphabet that can be attempted.Tags: business, human resources, leadership, Learning Organization, project management, success